An Analysis of Daddy by Sylvia Plath

01 SP D1

In Plath’s most controversial poem, the speaker describes the relationship with her father in neglect, disconnection and oppression. The first stanza is one of my favorite in poetry as it is unusual and effective description of oppression, like a foot in a tight shoe. The feelings of abandonment by her father’s premature death and the dissolution of her marriage to Ted Hughes produces this emotionally charged poem, the anger turned into absurdity from failing to find resolution. The speaker compares the relationship as Jew to Nazi for daughter and father, “An engine, an engine/ Chuffing me off like a Jew./…I began to talk like a Jew./I think I may well be a Jew.” (Lines 31-32..34-35)This imagery is uncomfortable, especially because the obvious over exaggeration of the relationship. Unfortunately, this language has turned some readers off to Plath’s work, that Sylvia perhaps trivializes the holocaust and there may be a lot of truth in that but it may also describe the holocausts that are invisible to the naked eye. Given the very theatrical treatment of what could be considered a monologue turned poem. Plath very well may have not intended “Daddy” to be read in a literal way, as poems have speakers who are not the poet themselves and of course we cannot ask her.

Starting on line 56, Plath describes her attempted suicide, her attempt to “get back, back, back to you./I thought even the bones would do.” (Lines 59-60) That in spite her anger at him for abandoning her and her reaction is to turn him into a monster for doing so, she still loves him as his daughter and always will. My favorite line is on 56, “Bit my pretty red heart in two.” Plath’s talent for metaphors really sparkles here, describing the heartbreak of losing a parent and having a child’s limited comprehension that he did not actually intend to die for her sake.

02 SP D2The final stanza of the poem describes Sylvia’s resolution to her father by taking revenge against him (and perhaps Hughes). Who like the Vampire, bled her emotions, with a stake through the heart, like the fiction recommends. To continue the theme, villagers parade around his death, because the speaker has no regret and neither do the villagers in her imagination (as we imagine how others may react to our actions.)

K.S.

5 thoughts on “An Analysis of Daddy by Sylvia Plath

    • Thank you Palas! Reading is definitely a habit to make time for, it always feels like there is so much to read that it’s over whelming. Sylvia is a good poet, I also like her poem “Mushroom,” really nice detail. Yvor Winters is also in the same vein as her. I like your blog–Best regards!

      Liked by 1 person

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