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"Daddy" by Sylvia Plath

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It would be true to say that Sylvia Plath’s Daddy is one of her most controversial poems. Her ambiguous and painful attitude to her father who died early and left her alone in this way makes up the main theme of the work. In a highly emotional tone, full of rage and despair, the poet expresses her feelings towards her father who oppressed her by his authoritative way of communication. Despite this, the heroine is deeply attached to her father and is desperate about his death.

The poem opens with a metaphor in which Sylvia describes her experience of living in the power of her father. She has controversial feelings about the fact that he is no longer with her and cannot rule her life. One the one hand, she feels relief but on the other hand, she is devastated and empty because of his death, as he took a great part of her soul:

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( 1-5)

It is known that historically Sylvia was ten years old when her father died, so this grounding on child’s impression makes the poem so weird and phantasmagoric. Because her memories are vague and transformed by emotions, the figure of her father looks like that of a mythical hero or villain that is a collective image of many people. She is full of "the elemental passion and the frightening or attractive figures of a childhood world of fantasy move, often with terrifying immediacy," (Annas 29)

Comparing the father in the poem with Nazi German

For this reason the father in the poem is stated to look like Nazi German. It can be suggested that in a child’s memory several deep emotions and impressions melted into one, which resulted in creating this larger than life image of the father:

I thought every German was you.

And the language obscene  (9-10).

The poet suggests that her father is so big for her that he unites a whole group of people in him. Comparing him to Nazi he refers to his German origin on the one hand, but on the other hand she tries to reveal her intimate feelings about him.

Several aspects of the heroine’s attitude can be traced in the poem, one of them is fear:

I have always been scared of you,

With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.

And your neat mustache

And your Aryan eye, bright blue.

This fear has an ambiguous character because simultaneously she is very attached to her father, it is even possible to say that she is addicted to him and obsessed with him.

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The whole poem of Plath is based on contrasts, which creates an impression of the heroine’s instability and uncertainty. Thus, she calls her father “daddy” in a gentle way, while at the end he names him “bustard”. She also refers to him as “devil” and “vampire” and claims that she should have killed him. An odd mixture of love and hatred coexists in the heroine’s mind that sends her hallucinations about her father.

The word “black” is repeated in the poem three times, which sets a gloomy mood of the poem. Sylvia’s poetry is organized in the way that makes the reader balance between the dream and the reality, and it is hard to decide which is less appealing. The technique of writing is based on free associations and deliberate combination of the uncombined. She puts the high and the low together, the material and the ideal. By painting her father as a vampire who sucked her blood, the poet shows her anger against him:

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.

Thus, the feelings of the heroine are very controversial and  make her heart tear apart. She is desperate about losing her father and would like to bring him back to life even some magic is required. However, she is so insulted by her father that she wants to resurrect him only to kill him again.

The hidden sexuality in the poem

The poem is also full of the hidden sexuality, which is also ambiguous because of the poet’s associations. "Daddy" also identifies sexuality with violence. "Every woman adores a Fascist, / The boot in the face, the brute / Brute heart of a brute like you."" (Annas 139) Thus, Sylvia makes a confession that she repeats the same model of behavior with other men too. In her mind, power is related to violence, just like in case with her father. No wonder that a metaphor of fascists emerged in this context as the one reflecting the ultimate self-destructing affection. Sylvia plath explains her poem in this way: “"The poem is spoken by a girl with an Electra complex. Her father died while she thought he was God. Her case is complicated by the fact that her father was also a Nazi and her mother very possibly part Jewish. In the daughter the two strains marry and paralyze each other—she has to act out the awful little allegory once before she is free of it."

Overall, the poem by Plath reveals the controversy about the heroine’s attitude to her father. On the one hand, she is happy to finally free herself from him, on the other way she is desperate because she does not know what to do with this freedom.

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