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World Authors Project - Sylvia Plath

Theme Analysis

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"Daddy"

Daddy by Sylvia Plath

 

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.

 

Daddy, I have had to kill you.

You died before I had time---

Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,

Ghastly statue with one grey toe[1][1]

Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic

When it pours bean green over blue

In the waters of beautiful Nauset.[2][2]

I used to pray to recover you.

Ach, du.[3][3]

 

In the German tongue, in the Polish town[4][4]

Scraped flat by the roller

Of wars, wars, wars.

But the name of the town is common.

My Polack friend

 

Says there are a dozen or two.

So I never could tell where you

Put your foot, your root,

I never could talk to you.

The tongue stuck in my jaw.

 

It stuck in a barb wire snare.

Ich, ich, ich, ich,[5][5]

I could hardly speak.

I thought every German was you.

And the language obscene

 

An engine, an engine

Chuffing me off like a Jew.

A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.[6][6]

I began to talk like a Jew.

I think I may well be a Jew.

 

The snows of the Tyrol,[7][7] the clear beer of Vienna

Are not very pure or true.

With my gypsy ancestress and my weird luck

And my Taroc[8][8] pack and my Taroc pack

I may be a bit of a Jew.

 

I have always been scared of you,

With your Luftwaffe,[9][9] your gobbledygoo.

And your neat mustache

And your Aryan eye, bright blue.

Panzer[10][10]-man, panzer-man, O You---

 

Not God but a swastika

So black no sky could squeak through.

Every woman adores a Fascist,

The boot in the face, the brute

Brute heart of a brute like you.

 

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,

In the picture I have of you,

A cleft in your chin instead of your foot

But no less a devil for that, no not

And less the black man who

 

Bit my pretty red heart in two.

I was ten when they buried you.

At twenty I tried to die

And get back, back, back to you.

I thought even the bones would do.

 

But they pulled me out of the sack,

And they stuck me together with glue.[11][11]

And then I knew what to do.

I made a model of you,

A man in black with a Meinkampf look[12][12]

 

And a love of the rack and the screw.

And I said I do, I do.

So daddy, I’m finally through.

The black telephone’s off at the root,

The voices just can’t worm through.

 

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two---

The vampire who said he was you

And drank my blood for a year,

Seven years, if you want to know.

Daddy, you can lie back now.

 

There’s a stake in your fat black heart

And the villagers never like you.

They are dancing and stamping on you.

They always knew it was you.

Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through (Plath, Ariel 49-51).

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Theme Analysis for "Daddy"
 

“Daddy” by Sylvia Plath is a collection of the author’s thoughts about her father, ex-husband, and all men in general. Plath wrote the poem just after the separation from her husband, just months before her depression escalated and she committed suicide. The themes of “Daddy” include men in society and religion.

 

    The poem is filled with Plath’s opinions and emotions concerning the men in her life. The most obvious, after which the poem is titled, is her father Otto Plath. It seems Sylvia was never able to forgive her father for passing away at such an early stage in her life and she blames Otto for his death. “You died before I had time,” and “I could never talk to you,” illustrates this point. She never recovered from the pain of losing her father. Her struggles with husband and poet Ted Hughes are also chronicled in the poem. She mentions her wedding “I do, I do” as saving her from her first suicide attempt, which is ironic because its end led her to a successful one. She also calls Hughes a “Fascist” and a “brute,” claiming this is why she fell in love with them. Towards the end of the poem she brings the two men together into one soul-eating force, claiming she killed two men, first her father who was a “vampire” or monster and then the man who took his place in Plath’s life. I assume that by claiming she killed two men she is foreshadowing her suicide, she is preparing herself to kill that part of her.

 

            Plath uses a large amount of religious imagery in the poem. She compares and contrasts the Germans and the Jews, which makes sense because the poem was written in the 1960s, relatively close to world war two. She makes the men in her life out to be the Germans or the Nazis, torturing her, the Jew. Plath is making a general statement about society in this comparison, comparing men to the Nazi torturers and women to the Jewish torturees. Plath also focuses on her suicide attempt, and “stuck her together with glue.” This reflects Plath’s lack of desire for life, she is only living because the doctors insisted on saving her, gluing her together. But glue is not permanent, it eventually unsticks.

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World Authors Project - Sylvia Plath - Sarah Zemach