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Practical criticism of Daddy by Sylvia Plath

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Introduction

Practical criticism of Daddy by Sylvia Plath The poem opens with a childish repetition of the words "You do not do, you do not do". Already we see the discord as it echoes the tantrums of a child and their refusal to acknowledge "you", while at the same time inviting interest with the meaning of "do". We want to know what relationship these two have. Why do "you" not "do". Coupled with the title, the intrigue is furthered with its such basic refusal. As if to continue this, "for thirty years, poor and white" seems to suggest that the only facts about herself that she can acknowledge is her basic race and status, such is her alienation and denial of any element of belonging. In the last line we see "barely daring to breathe or Achoo". While also hinting at the nursery rhyme about the black death, which will later lead on to metaphors for the Nazis, again it draws comparisons between the importance of her father and her most basic functions. ...read more.

Middle

Her imagery hops about, as if she cannot symbolise him or classify him properly, such was his effect on her. Then there is the symbolism of the sea as being forever moving, changing and all true reality being washed away in its immensity. Coupled with the interesting use of the "Nauset" and its similarity to the word "nauseous" seems to portray her mental anguish and confusion rather astutely. In the third line she "used to pray for to recover you". This is a strong contrast to her want to kill him, and perfectly mirrors the conflict of emotions within her. She then moves on to horrific imagery, symbolising herself as the Polish, being "scraped flat by the roller" by Germans, who, since her father was German, the two can be easily equated. She uses the comparison to suggest that he, like the German soldiers, has not understood the full implication of his actions, and the amazing affect they have had on those around them. ...read more.

Conclusion

Strangely, in "I thought every German was you" she could be suggesting that she considered every man she came across as her father, because of how little he actually affected her. She is misguided in her understanding of love, and as such finds "the language obscene" because is contains no sign of compassion or love. In the next stanza, we again see the comparison with the Germans, and this time with the much more ghastly images of Jews in concentration camps. She is really stretching the boundaries; trying to find an image suitable to reflect the pain he has caused her. Her repetition of the names of the different concentration camps is gruesome and cold, and "chuffing me off like a Jew" also implies the utter desolation and inescapable alienation of the two parties. In "With my gypsy ancestress and my weird luck and my Taroc pack" We can see the effects of this alienation and denial. Confusion from her lack of past leads to a directionless future, and her reliance on such fleeting chance as Taroc packs. ...read more.

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