The poem "Daddy" written by Sylvia Plath is one of the most interesting and controversial poems in American literature. The author makes use of metaphors and other literary elements in order to give an illustration of the idea of a girl that freed from his father. The poem was written in the year 1962 months after Plath had moved to London with her family (Hayman & Ronald). The poem illustrates the love and hate relationships in which the father became the sole source of the hatred that the daughter had because of his demise. It is a poem of anger that a child has towards a father figure. According to Plath, the poem is composed using an Electra complex which helps in indicating the kind of hatred between the father and the mother. The emotional feelings of love and hatred are illustrated by Plath to illustrate the strains of father and daughter. It is a poem that depicts a sense of relief at the departure of a loved one from her life.
It is clearly evident that the author uses knowledge and skills in order to make the poem more relevant to the readers. Generally, she combines individual with mythical elements. The poem has a cutting edge such that it slices an individual's mind. One of the unique features is the self-control the father has towards the family. He depicts the father as a black shoe, a giant statue, and most heartening, a vampire. On the other hand, the girl is depicted as the speaker who sums up as a victim ends up in a weird place. She finds herself in the black shoe, and in a particular sense, in a train as it moves along. The poem describes the author's expression of inner pain through her skills to present issues in lyrical form (Lennard & John). In a way, the author offers the reader a black myth and a light echoes of an individual, a mother goose that has a dark past of the history of the Second World War. The speaker uses disturbing imagery that reflects the undertakings of the world.
Although the imagery used by Plath drives the point home, it leads to pain and anguish to the fainted hearted readers. Why does Plath decide to use such a metaphor? Is she stepping too far as a poet? Not only is her poem a nightmare, but it provides readers with a rich historical background about the Nazis. He uses the scenario to illustrate her life journey with her father who happens to be a journey. The author also makes use of the sound of the training clinging which gives the readers a rough idea of the energy that the author has in writing the poem. The author is also quick to describe the train chuffing moments on its way to its final destination. Below is the analysis of the stanzas in the poem.
In the first stanza of the poem, the narrator depicts a declaration of intent; this is shown when the train sets off for its final destination through many tunnels. She reveals to the readers that the topic of the poem does not exist. This is illustrated in the phrase "You do not do." (McQuade & Donald) However, this line does not in any way express loss but instead reveals the nature of father and daughter relationship. The father is referred to as a black shoe. The narrator explains that she is the foot that has been trapped in the shoe for nearly years. She further reveals that the feet are poor because of the years it was trapped by the shoe never to be allowed to see the sun. The first stanza does not only express the daughter's plight at the hands of her father but also the fear she had towards her father. The daughter feared her dad to the point that she could not sneeze or breathe before the father.
In the second stanza, things get interesting for readers as the narrator develops the desire to murder her father. This is evident from the line "I have had to kill you." (McQuade & Donald). The author further reveals why she did not kill her father. She could not manage to kill her father because he died before he could execute the plan. The narrator does not make the confession sorrowful; she instead refers to her father as a "God." This suggests that the view of the narrator on her father could be compared to that of the Lord, one of fear and trembling (Hayman & Ronald). The narrator's description of her father is evidence of the hatred and lack of emotional attachment between the two. She thinks that her dad was a hardened man that had no feelings, and he was like a statue on the streets; this particular scene is a typical use of surreal imagery.
In the third stanza, the narrator describes the beautiful scenery of the Atlantic Ocean while having a personal perspective on the death of her father. Although his father might have had the beauty like that of the Atlantic Ocean, he had lots of flaws in his life. Prayer is used in this stanza to try getting the father back by restoring his health. In the fourth stanza, the narrator starts to wonder about the origin of his father. She comes to find out that his father was from Poland where German was the native language. The fifth stanza is somehow a continuation of what the author was trying to describe. She reveals that her friend helped her decipher the polish name of the town that his father came from; it was a familiar name (McQuade & Donald). She wants to let the readers see the strengths of the war and the idea of how Germany has made life impossible.
In the sixth stanza, the narrator describes her communication with the father by an illustration of barbed wire. She reveals to the readers that at any given moment she wanted to talk to her father, she could only say "I." (McQuade & Donald). Additionally, she illustrates how she was made to think that every man in Germany was his father. In the seventh stanza, the train's steam engine reveals that the narrator is not in any ordinary train. It is a train headed to a death camp where Jews killed during World War II were buried. In the eighth stanza, the speaker compares the Nazis to the 'snow of Tyrol" which represents an idea of racial purity among the German people (McQuade & Donald).
As illustrated in the 9th stanza, the speaker is more courageous to speak about his father now that he is no more. She confesses that she was always afraid of him. In the tenth stanza, she uses the metaphor "father swastika", to describe the Nazis (Hayman & Ronald). She explains how big swastika is to the point that it gives the entire atmosphere a blackout. The eleventh stanza is seen as a personal stanza. It breaks the image of the poem and takes the reader into some form of the classroom. In the twelfth verse, the speaker has a divided mind where she has lost her father while she was young. She questioned God about the death of her father, at twenty years she attempted to kill herself to reunite with her dead father. However, in the thirteenth stanza she reveals that although she did not manage to commit suicide, she desired to marry someone that had the traits of her father.
In the fourteenth stanza, the narrator reveals that the man that they tied the knot together enjoyed torture. She married a harsh man that depicted her father's attitudes and behavior. It is in the fifteenth stanza does the speaker claim responsibility for her father's death. She claims that the husband that married her had no similarity with her dad. The husband was inhumane and took away her life. This is why she refers to her husband as a vampire. Finally, in the last stanza, the narrator shows the desire to kill the ghost of his father (McQuade & Donald). Once she realized who she was, her father stopped to torture her from the chambers of death.
In conclusion, "Daddy" is a poem that exhibits dark themes that illustrate the life of Plath through metaphor and allegory. One thing for sure is that Plath never made it look confessional. The courage expressed by the author is one sign of maturity. It helps Plath to express pain in a way that her readers would understand. The poem is complex yet simple and incorporates nursery rhymes to explore the father-daughter relationship and the oppression. The poem exhibits great power and importance that readers can only learn from the author.
Hayman, Ronald. "[BOOK REVIEW] The death and life of Sylvia Plath." Economist 320 (2011): 78-78.
Lennard, John. The poetry handbook. Oxford University Press, 2015.
McQuade, Donald, ed. The Harper American Literature. Vol. 2. HarperCollins, 2013.
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