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I Wanna Be Special : Plath and Nazi Germany.

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I Wanna Be Special : Plath and Nazi Germany E. Michele Bradley (200106335) Sylvia Plath is a poet who writes in a confessional style. Her poetry shows her strong opinions towards patriarchy. By examining her works and researching her past, one can see that the two prominent male figures in her past are her father and Ted Hughes, her husband. In her poetry Plath uses Nazi Germany as a metaphor for the oppressive system of patriarchy women live under, while she portrays the victim as Jews. Two examples of poems where this appears are "Lady Lazarus" and "Daddy". Because the Holocaust is such a sensitive subject, there are two schools of thought to Plath's metaphor. One belief is that she belittles the Holocaust. The other belief is that a metaphor is simply a metaphor. Obviously, Plath has no first hand knowledge if she uses the metaphor so trivially. There are aspects of Plath's works that people may find hard to understand if they don't know about her history. To understand Plath's poetry, one has to understand Plath. Sylvia Plath writes confessional poetry. Because she writes in this confessional style, those who study her work must become familiar with her past.


"Daddy, I have had to kill you. / You died before I had time" (Daddy, 6-7). She verbally demonstrates her need to hurt and to kill him; he is the symbol of patriarchy from her early life. Plath resents the fact that he died before she could remove him from his strong patriarchical role. This resentment grew until she began to see oppression everywhere: I have always been scared of you, Wish your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo. And your neat moustache And your Aryan eye, bright and blue ("Daddy", 41-44). Plath associates her fathers' German features to Nazi features. This particular comparison also strongly draws upon a militaristic image. As "Luftwaffe" means Air Force in German, she is quite obviously comparing patriarchy to military. The idea of someone with power over her terrifies Plath. Since patriarchy is seen as oppressive Nazi Germany, Plath sees herself as an oppressed Jew. A sort of walking miracle, my skin Bright as a Nazi lampshade, My right foot A paperweight, My face a featureless, fine Jew linen ("Lady Lazarus", 4-9) A few images from the Holocaust are drawn here. Plath places herself in a situation where she is the victim.


African slaves, who did not obey every order of their masters, were beaten. European explorers who first explored the Americas, killed countless natives, and brought more over seas to become slaves. If one wishes to look at statistics, the number of people killed in the Holocaust, is almost the same as the number of women killed through patriarchal society. Sylvia Plath was a poet who wrote her poems for others to read. Her metaphor of comparing patriarchy to Nazi Germany is used to shock audiences into seeing the severity of oppression that women face. However, to achieve this shock, she lessens the impact of the Holocaust. Many defend that Plath is simply using a metaphor the way it should be used. In this writer's opinion, because Plath used the Holocaust just to shock readers, is why she is belittling it. If she wrote the way Anne Sexton did before being published - that is, for personal reasons - this writer would not have a problem. As it is, the comparison was written for all to see. By being so public in her trivialization of that happened to the Jewish people, Plath's only accomplishment is to embarrass herself with writing that isn't poor, but shows a decided lack of judgement.

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