“Daddy” A Love Lost
“Daddy” was written by poet Sylvia Plath who graduated summa cum laude Plath began her writing at the early age of 11 when she began to keep diaries after the passing of her father Otto Plath, who died from complications from surgery stemming from diabetes in 1940. “Daddy” is one of Plath’s poems written in 1962 about her father. In “Daddy” it is clear that the feelings and emotions Plath expresses for her father are unhealthy and possibly the relationship she had with him before his passing as well. While analyzing “Daddy” through the lens of love I will attempt to describe Plath’s complex love she had for her father and the detrimental affect his passing had on the internal balance of her mental stability. In “Daddy” Plath describes both a soft and warming love for her father as well as a dark and frightening side.
Plath suggests she both respected and feared her father, and both loved and hated him in more than one area in this writing. One example can be seen here, “Daddy, I have had to kill you. / You died before I had time-" (Lines 6-7). She implies that she would’ve killed her father if he hadn’t died of other circumstances already, which suggests that she hated him or had some sort of malice toward him. Later she says “I used to pray to recover you.” (14). To pray to recover someone after death suggest that you miss that person and want them back for whatever reason, whether it be for unfinished business, to speak words you didn’t have the chance to say or to even take back some things you might have said that may have been hurtful. In Plath’s case it could be many things. I have even come to the idea that she may have wanted to recover her father so she could fulfill her earlier statement and kill him herself. An example of her fear can be seen best here, “I have always been scared of you, /With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.” (Lines 41-42). The word Luftwaffe is a German word for air force which suggests that Otto was possible a military man or that he was strict within his household to the extent of military practices. On the other hand the word gobbledygoo is not a word at all, it reminds me of a children’s’ word more so to describe a monster or fictional character like a ghost or goblin for instance. In the biography “Bitter Fame- A Life of Sylvia Plath” by Anne Stevenson, Otto Plath is described as being a dominating force within his household. This can be seen here “If she wanted peace, she realized, she would have to submit to her husband’s rule, although, as she confesses, she was not naturally submissive.” (Page 6). This quote is referring to Plath’s mother, Aurelia Plath, who was the daughter of Austrian immigrants; she held a Masters’ degree in both English and German from Boston University where she taught for a number of years. Throughout this poem Plath speaks in German. This is in recognition of her father’s culture who was a German immigrant. According to Plath she could never speak to her father, “I never could talk to you./ The tongue stuck in my jaw./ It stuck in a barb wire snare./ Ich, ich, ich, ich,/ I could hardly speak./ I thought every German was you./ And the language obscene.” (Lines 24-30). Why couldn’t Plath speak to her father? Was it because she wasn’t fluent in his native language? Or maybe because she was scared of him. I gather that she was scared of him. She says her tongue stuck in a barb wire snare, barb wire is extremely sharp and dangerous. If an actual tongue touched it, it would be torn to shreds. That suggest that she was just scared to let the words roll off her tongue in fear of what his response may have been. Also she repeatedly says ‘Ich’ which is German for “I”. One could assume by this the fear just took over her. She also suggest that her father may have sworn a lot and that he may have tarnished her image of Germans in the way that all Germans are mean just like you, and curse just like you by “ I thought every German was you. And the...
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