A commentary of "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath

Topics: Stanza, Swastika, Sylvia Plath Pages: 6 (1644 words) Published: August 1, 2006
"Daddy", one of Plaths most famous and detailed autobiographical poems, was written in the last years of her life and is saturated with suppressed anger and dark imagery. The sixteen stanza poem, through Plaths use of ambiguous symbolism, arguably is bitterly addressing Plaths father, who died when she was only eight, and her husband Ted Hughes, who had broken her "pretty red heart in two" (st.12, line 1). The poem is intense with once suppressed emotion, setting an aggressive, desperate, almost psychic tone and is highly concentrated on the theme of death. With Plath's application of various techniques including diction, imagery, enjambment, contrast, repetition and oxymoron, the poem comes across as shocking with the intensity of feeling and the passionate sadness that highlight the suicidal messages conveyed.

As is pointed out, the context of the poem "Daddy" is that of Plath's husband's affair with another woman. Grieved to the point of psychotic anger Plath's use of imagery throughout the piece accentuates the hopeless despair of the speaker at the conflicting male relationships in Plath's life: first her father and then husband.

"Any more, black shoe

In which I have lived like a foot..."

The metaphor of 'black shoe' possibly used to denote a person, suggests a stifling image. The speaker claims to have lived in that shoe, almost as if unwillingly trapped. While it suggests a sort of protection, the colour imagery of black, which is a recurring motif in the poem, connotes to negativity: death, even decaying. This could further be interpreted to suggest that Plaths own voice is accusing her father of having trapped her by his sudden death; she is almost disclosing her great weakness before him even after his death and again returns to the initial idea of conflict and confusion. It has been argued that Plath in making a feministic stance accusing the male domination in her relationship with her father and unable to break it she is psychologically shaken.

The highly accusative tone is streaked with notes of almost childish fear, fear before the speaker's imaginary demon which she confronts in her mind. Plath uses diction to underscore a childish memory that the speaker has nourished of in her mind, memory being an important theme in "Daddy".

"I have always been scared of you,

With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledydoo"

These highly ambiguous two lined can be said to be now addressing the speaker's husband rather than father, for the emphasis on the 'you' can mean a change in the addressee. But more importantly the child-like diction: 'gobbldydoo', brings out the undertone of this stanza. The childhoods simple perspective a reflected through the language; the speaker is scared, she again feels dominated by a mysterious 'you' and the childhood images of her father mix in with her demonized illusion to re-create this fear, now for the speaker's husband. The use of German 'Luftwaffe' again on a personal level is used by Plath to identify with her father's past, for he was German, and her partly German husband. A further analysis suggests that the Nazi motif in the poem insinuates the male influence on Plath, a suppressing force she has been unable to fight and fears still.

Further use of diction emphasizes Plath's helpless tone in contrast to the fiery aggressive one employed in most stanzas:

"And you Aryan eye, bright blue.

Panzer-man, Panzer-man, O You-"

Panzer being a German method of breaking the enemy fronts in World War 2, with an unstoppable movement of tanks can possibly insinuate the speaker's weakness before the demon in her illusion: her husband and father. Their force is unstoppable and she is not equipped to fight it: there is a tone oh hopelessness and almost decisive statement that the speaker shall be defeated soon. This could suggest both Plath's suicide and also the accusative message towards the males in her life.

Following the idea of males, the poem can be viewed as...
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