Analysis of Sylvia Plath "Daddy"

in Poem

In her poem "Daddy", Sylvia Plath clearly expresses her intense emotions and resentments towards adored male dominance.  This is portrayed through her intense emotions towards her father and in the later disastrous relationship with her husband. Sylvia Plath is the main speaker in this poem and she expresses how she felt after losing her father at a tender age of ten, when she adored him most (Sylvia Plath Forum).  It was only after the death of her father that she realizes how dominant her father was. She goes to an extent of comparing her father with Nazi, devil, or a vampire. These comparisons illustrate how Plath felt towards male dominance not only in marriage but also in the society (Steinberg 29). Perhaps, she expresses her intense emotions from her experience in a short but painful marriage to her husband.  Through poetic devices like metaphor, imagery, tone, and others, Sylvia Plath clearly illustrates her anger and resentment towards male dominance.

Metaphor is one of the most influential poetic devices in the poem. As the poem progress, metaphors assume difference nuances of meanings. The different metaphors which are evident in the poem include color, shoes and feet, and others. In the second line, Plath talks of a foot that evidently lives in a shoe. The shoe has been used to symbolize her father. However, one has to visualize these metaphors rather than analyze them through abstract lens. In common situation, a shoe protects the foot and keeps it warm. However, in her poem, Plath uses the shoe to symbolize a trap that smothers the foot. On color, Plath uses color "black" in different parts to visualize different meanings. Color "black" is used to visualize dominance and suggests death. Black shoe in this case illustrate how she feels protected and at the same time smothered by her father. Later in the poem, black shoe show a "military boot" (line 49) when she compared her father with the Nazi (Plath 77).  In reference to Nazism, black boot could also be used to refer to oppression in the society during the time of Nazis.

The imagery in "Daddy" gives the reader a chance to understand Plaths's harsh life through relations. In line (53-54) she talks of "A cleft in your chin instead of your foot, but no less a devil for that" (Sylvia Plath Forum). Here, she again refers to the foot and cleft in the foot. Imagery is further developed in reference to her father being like a vampire (72) who still haunts her long after his death. In a similar way a vampire drains blood of the victims, Plath discusses how she had drained by her marriage.

The tone in the poem represents the self-conversation of an adult who is consumed in anger. Sometimes, this anger slips into soft sobs of a small baby. There are several lines which express childlike repetition like "You do not do, you do not do" (1), "Daddy, daddy, you bastard" (80) and others, which expresses father to child relationship (Sylvia Plath Forum). Through the tone of the poem, Plath brings the reader starkly to a world of childhood fears. Words like "a barb wire snare" (26), "I have always been scared of you" (41) and others express a child staring at her father (Plath 77). However, the tone of the poem changes later to that of a mature and strong woman. This is expressed in words like "So daddy, I'm finally through" (73), "And I knew what to do" (63), and others (Sylvia Plath Forum). Evidently, the last two stanzas of the poem illustrate an attitude of power.

Plath also employs different similes in the poem. In line (31-35) she talks of "An engine, and engine Chuffing me off like a Jew. A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen. I begin to talk like a Jew. I think I may well be a Jew" (Sylvia Plath Forum).  This simile helps the reader to visualize the suffering the poet went through by comparing it to torments of Jews during Second World War. There are many other similes she employs in the poem including comparing her father to Hitler in line (41-44) "I have always been scared of you, with you Luftwaffe, you gobbledygook. And your neat mustache And your Aryan eye, bright blue." (Sylvia Plath Forum)

Throughout the poem "Daddy" there is an expression of negativity. However, at the end of the poem, Plath shows that she had been able to resolve conflict boiling within her. She evokes power in her life which motivates readers in different ways. Her last line "Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through" (80) shows that she had reached her freedom (Sylvia Plath Forum). This is an inspiration poem that motivates readers, especially women who feel oppressed by male dominance in different ways.

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Analysis of Sylvia Plath "Daddy"

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This article was published on 2011/05/16