Daddy by Sylvia Plath
The poem has a vivid use of imagination and a controversial use of Holocaust as metaphors by Sylvia Plath. The poem, which was written on October 12, 1962 shortly before Plath’s death is considered as one of the most anthologized poems in American Literature, which portrays a complex relationship between Plath and her father.
BY SYLVIA PLATH
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time–
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal
And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend
Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
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
An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.
The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.
I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You–
Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.
You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who
Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.
But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look
And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.
If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two–
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.
There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.
Analysis of Plath’s “Daddy”
The poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath is a vivid illustration of anguish, brutality and a crying out of the soul from a daughter who lost her father. This poem consists of sixteen five-line stanzas where the poet portrays the loss of her father, Otto Plath.
The poet begins with he “does not do anymore” referring to the fact that she feels like she has been a foot who has been living in a black shoe for the last thirty or so years. She refers to him as “Daddy” and insists that she needed to kill him, but he passed away before she could. She uses the phrase “bag full of God” to describe him, and pours her heart out in saying how she prayed for his return from the death with a German utterance of grief.
When it comes to the man, the poet possesses an entirely different mentality. In her mind, the man makes her think that he is the perfect embodiment of the words “Every woman adores a Fascist”, and the “boot in the face”.
When the speaker remembers her “Daddy”, she remembers that he was standing at the blackboard, and remembers his cleft chin more than his cleft foot. However, the speaker is very careful to not associate any of those traits of her father with a devil. The urge of the poet to have one more glimpse of her father is one of the highlights of her poem.
The speaker moves on to mention that her attempt had failed and that was when she woke up. She promised her father that she had found her course, and was “finally through” and that the telephone was taken off the hook along with her new self which could no longer hear any more voices.
The poet finally concludes her long poem by bidding goodbye to her father, which portrays a bittersweet touch of anguish, love, and despair. The speaker’s looming father figure was to her a symbol of oppression, male dominance and fascist control, the death of whom she has finally come to terms with.