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Analyse the poem "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath

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Analyse the poem "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath The title "Daddy" evokes images of nurturing fathers, willing to do anything for their children; it suggests innocence and protection. Plath could be using this in a number of different ways. It may be ironic - she uses this word to describe her father because he should have been a model for her, and he was the precise opposite of her ideals. It also suggests a longing for her father to have been this model. It may relate to the feminist issues at the time Plath wrote "Daddy" - fathers were all believed to be a perfect model for society, and women and daughters who were victims of them were mostly ignored. The repetition of "you do not do" gives the persona an assertive edge; she is standing up to her father. It also makes her sound a little immature, as though she has to express herself in this way. Indeed, the syntax throughout the poem is stilted, with little complicated vocabulary, giving the persona a childlike quality. Plath writes that she "lived like a foot" in the "shoe" of her father. It implies that her father, as the "shoe", surrounded her. It could suggest that she could not escape him, and she "wore" him - he was a burden to her. She also writes that in her father's presence, she is "barely daring to breath" - she is terrified of him. ...read more.


Adolf Hitler himself was of Austrian heritage (having been born in the Austro-Hungarian empire). This metaphor suggests that, although the beer of Vienna may seem "clear" to outsiders or supporters of Hitler (and therefore, using her Holocaust metaphor, her father), to those in the know, such as she, it is tainted. Vienna could also be a reference to Adolf Eichmann, whose office was based there. He was the official in charge of forcibly deporting and expelling Jews from Austria. Plath attributes her father with his "Luftwaffe", "neat mustache", and "Aryan eye". All these were features of Hitler as well - it was the idea of a "perfect Nazi". By describing her father in this way, she cements her metaphor of the Holocaust. She also describes him as "panzer-man". This repeated description, which seems like a childish nickname, refers to a type of tank - it suggests that Plath feels her father flattens and destroys everything in his path. Plath starts the ninth stanza with the line "not God but a swastika." During the Holocaust, many people gave up on their religion after facing terrible trials. They believed that their God had deserted them - why else would He not have saved them? Plath uses this metaphor to possibly describe the fear she felt of her father; God wasn't saving her from him; she lost her faith and faced a future with a dictator (the "swastika".) She also claims that "every woman adores a Fascist." ...read more.


For example, Plath attempted to commit suicide at twenty, citing her reasons as to join her father in death ("At twenty I tried to die/And get back, back, back to you.") Even considering the feeling of hatred we get from much of this poem, the phrase still shows that Plath still felt a childish longing to be with her father, and she portrays this in this poem. There is also a reference to her marriage to Ted Hughes - she writes that she married a "man in black", and it was well known that Ted Hughes always dressed head to toe in black. There are many poems about fathers and parents in literature. For example, Seamus Heaney's "Follower" describes the role reversal between him and his father in age. If we compare this to Sylvia Plath's poem, we see a slight similarity towards their attitudes to their fathers, but a chasm between their emotions. Heaney views his father as someone who pesters him in his age - "he will not go away" - whereas Plath appears more troubled by the memory of her father not leaving her (see "Daddy, I have had to kill you.") Although many poems describe anger towards their fathers, Plath's poem appears, to me, to be the most vindictive, and yet the most confused, of them all - her Holocaust metaphor coupled with the innocence of "Daddy" makes her seem confused about her attitude towards her father. Only when the end of the poem has been reached do we see her overcome her demons and refuse to associate with her father any longer. ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

This essay has two great strengths. Firstly it traces the development of the poem without ignoring the difficult parts. Secondly it takes an appropriately tentative approach to discussing dense and sometimes obscure imagery, offering interpretations without being too dogmatic about them.
It could be even more improved by considering how repetition, enjambment and irregularities of rhyme and rhythm contribute to the mood of the poem.

Marked by teacher Val Shore 15/03/2012

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