“Daddy” by Sylvia Plath: A Critical Analysis

Sylvia Plath writes her poem “Daddy” to communicate her deep feelings about her father’s life and death, as well as her terrible marriage. Sylvia Plath, the speaker in this poem, lost her father when she was 10 years old, at a period when she still adored him unreservedly. She eventually recognises her father’s oppressive power and compares him to a Nazi, a devil, and a vampire. Later, the struggle in her relationship with her spouse continues, resulting in a brief and difficult marriage. Sylvia Plath uses rich metaphor, imagery, rhyme, tone, and simile in her poem “Daddy” to express her feelings of rage and bitterness toward her father and husband, as well as her experience of being oppressed for most of her life.

Though shoes and feet are a recurring motif in this poem, they take on different shades of meaning as the poem progresses, metaphor plays a big role in this poetry because strong metaphors are presented throughout the poem. The speaker compares herself to a foot that “lives” in a shoe, which is her father, in line two. On an abstract level, analysing this metaphor is far less useful than picturing it. The metaphor then conjures up a number of useful associations: In this poetry, a shoe protects the foot and keeps it warm. The shoe, on the other hand, is a trap, suffocating the foot. The term “black” conjures up images of death, while the shoe’s tight fit can conjure up images of a body in a coffin. As a result, Plath feels both protected and suffocated by her father. When the father is called a Nazi, the black shoe transforms into a military “boot” (line 49).

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The poem’s image aids the reader’s understanding of Plath’s difficult life. “A cleft in your chin instead of your foot/But no less a devil for that,” for example, is how the devil is introduced. (53-54). The foot is mentioned again, this time in a suspicious manner, similar to the father’s origins. The devil’s hooves cleft in the foot is compared to the father’s chin cleft. The pictures of the father and the spouse, who is similar to the father in that he is a “vampire” (72)—a bloodsucking zombie who continuously haunts her long after his death—add to this. Similar to how a vampire takes the blood of its victims, Plath recounts how her life was being drained away as a result of a marriage.

The poem appears to have an unusual rhyme pattern. Because it can be broken down into three parts, “Daddy” is not a free-flowing poetry. The ‘oo’ sound rhyming is evident throughout the verse. However, the order in which the lines rhyme is random. These inconsistencies reflect Plath’s life without her father, a life that fluctuated between happiness and despair in a short amount of time. The poem is also divided into five stanzas, each with five brief lines. “If I have killed one man, I have killed two—The vampire who said he was you,” as an example of this, “If I have killed one man, I have killed two—The vampire who said he was you.” (75) The imagery in these words is so strong that it overpowers the rhyme pattern.

This poem is written in the voice of an adult who is enraged. This fury might sometimes sound like a child’s sobbing. Plath’s persistent use of the name daddy, as well as the infantile repetitions “You do not do, you do not do” (1) and “Daddy, daddy, you bastard” (2), demonstrate this (80). Her childhood fear propels her in directions that will lead her away from herself. She also immerses us in the realm of a child’s terror. “I have always been afraid of you,” she says, using words that sound like those of a child looking out from behind “a barb wire snare” (26) (41) The tone of the poem then shifts from fear of a child to a powerful lady near the finish. “So daddy, I am finally through,” she says. (73) “And I knew exactly what I had to do.” (63) And in the final two stanzas, he exhibits a commanding attitude. Plath has mastered her abilities; she has extinguished all self-doubt, and she is demonstrating how she now has control over her father’s memories. She is self-assured enough to address her foe directly. The tone in these words also adds to the poem’s intensity. “Daddy, daddy, you bastard” (80) has a stronger impact on listeners than “Daddy was a bastard.”

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In the seventh stanza of the poem, Plath employs multiple similes. “An engine, an engine, an engine, an engine, an engine, an engine, an Like a Jew, chuffing me off. Dachau, Auschwitz, and Belsen for a Jew. I start speaking in a Jewish manner. “I am pretty sure I am a Jew.” (31-35) The similes in this verse allow the reader to see the speaker’s immense pain in comparison to the torment and anguish millions of people had during World War II, eliciting sympathy from the reader since everyone deserves to grow up with two surviving parents. Plath compares her father to Adolf Hitler. “With your Luftwaffe and your gobbledygoo, I have always been afraid of you.” Also, your well-kept moustache And your beautiful blue Aryan eye.” (41-44) Plath draws a link between her father and Hitler in that Hitler was responsible for the deaths of so many Jews. In a parallel universe, her father is Hitler, and she is a Jew.

“Daddy” is a dark, pessimistic poetry. However, it is obvious that Plath was able to settle her difficulties by the poem’s end. She was also able to convey a tremendous deal of strength to the readers through the poetry. Her use of vivid metaphor, imagery, rhyme, tone, and simile as significant literary elements demonstrates this. “Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I am through,” she says at the end of the poem, indicating that she has finally achieved independence.

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