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Sylvia Plath’s Confessional Poem, Daddy

Sylvia Plath reveals herself in her confessional poem ADaddy@. She uses strong imagery and powerful speech to show her attitudes towards her late father, Otto Plath and her husband, Ted Hughes, who also hurt her in the end. Her tone implies a strong hatred and disgust for the relationships with both men. The poem was written in 1963 which happened to be the same year that she committed suicide. Plath had a history of troubled times and attempted suicide. Plath describes her relationship and feelings of guilt, fear, and pain her father=s death caused her.

Plath used imagery heavily in her poem to show her emotions. She casts her father into different parts throughout the poem. Plath=s images of her father are compared to God, a Nazi, the Devil, and a vampire. All of these images are powerful on their own but by being put together they are almighty and frightening. In the beginning the speaker=s childhood memories of her father are *God-like= to her. Her father wasn=t God, but just Aa bag of God@(8). He must have been very powerful and impressive to her.

She continues to describe her father as a AGhastly statue with one gray toe@ (9), showing that her father was overwhelming and as if he was only a copy of a person, fake and cold. Her father was unattainable since he died while Plath was still a young child. She felt tired of dealing with her abandonment issues and was ready to get rid of the controlling memory of her deceased father. One can see this in the beginning of the poem, You do not do, you do not do Any more, black shoe In which I have lived like a foot (1-3). Plath is fighting to exorcise the memory of her father once and all.

Then Plath goes on to describe her father as a Nazi and places herself in the role of the Jew. This helps explain how she feels that she is a victim. There isn’t any strong wording to suggest that Otto Plath was a real= Nazi. This was a symbolic realtionship of oppressor and oppressed. She illustrated how different they were. She also identified with her Agypsy ancestress=, showing that she was far away from the acceptable Nazi image. Plath uses contrasting imagery with the references to swastika and the idea of a Jew, which the Star of David is the first image to appear in the mind=s eye.

She related with the Jews in concentration camps. This shows how she felt trapped and confined. Even the German language was harsh to her ears, AAnd the language obscene@ (30). Everything that her father was, was something that she couldn=t relate with. Then she later goes on to cast her father as the Devil. AA cleft in your chin instead of your foot / But no less of a devil for that, no not@ (53-54). Plath uses a comparison between her father and the devil to emphasis her attitudes toward him. The supposed characteristic of a devil=s cleft hove is possessed by the father but not in his foot.

Thought Plath is convinced that it does not make her father any less of a devil. Her last monestrous image she gives her father is that of a vampire. This is the point in the poem which Plath revels her husband=s character more. In the beginning of the second half of ADaddy,@ it is hard to pinpoint which man she is referring to. She does not actually announce the husband until line 64 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. (64-67)

It was after Plath=s suicide attempt that she married Ted Hughes. You can see that in line 58 through 64. She explains how she attempted suicide and then knew what she was going to do. She married a man just like her father, a type of surrogate for her deceased father. Maybe it was an attempt to bring her father back or maybe it was something she did to try to cope with the unfinished feelings she had dealing with his early death. In line 67 she says AI do, I do@, implying that she was not just marriage Ted Hughes but also marring the memory of her father.

The poem can almost be roughly divided in half. The first 8 stanzas can be easily related to her father and the last eight stanzas one can she the husband being introduced. In superficial ways the two men can be seen as one but Plath has come to realize that the one she has been idolizing all of those years is really gone and the other is really a monster. She uses the metaphor of the vampire to describe her father and husband. As a monster alive but dead at the same time. That may be the reason for the confusion in most of the poem.

She married a man that reminded her of her father, only to be hurt again. Though with the poem=s climax the speaker *kills= the father=s memory with Aa stake in your fat black heart@(76). Once she was able to kill the memory of her father, the separation of the two men occurred. Plath concluded the poem with symbolically killing the two men, AIf I=ve killed one man, I=ve killed two–@(71) Plath imagery of her father and husband as vampires brings closure to both the poem and any desire for the continuity of either relationship.

In this monologue of a woman to her *Daddy=, Plath addresses issues of abandonment and pain that her father and husband caused her. Stylistic devices play an important role in showing the many complicated aspects of Plath=s attitude towards men. There was never such powerful closure as Plath last line addressed to her father, ADaddy, daddy, you bastard, I=m through. @(80) Sad to note that she was really *through=, she killed herself the same year ending a life of troubles and writings of excellence.

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