The definition of a father is a male parent. For some people, the word father goes much deeper than that. A father is someone who protects you and loves you, gives you guidance and advice, and is the one person you can always count on. But for some people a father is just that, a male parent; a person you barely know, or a person you have come to fear. In Sylvia Plath’s poem, Daddy, she tells a chilling description of a man whom she compares to Hitler, a man who is her daddy. In the poem Daddy, the speaker unfolds a disturbing description of a father.
Plath uses elements that we see happened in her real life and also events of the most horrific mass murder in the world’s history, the Holocaust. Many different metaphors are used to describe the relationship the speaker had with her father: a swastika, a Nazi, like God, and a vampire. The speaker describes herself as a victim, referring to herself as a Jew. The speaker is not necessarily a Jew but she wants the reader to see the relationship she had with her father to be like the relationship between a Nazi (her father) and a Jew (herself).
In the poem the speaker talks of revenge and killing her father and also killing her husband. The climactic part of the poem is the speaker finally telling her father that she is through with him. In the first stanza, the speaker describes her father as a black shoe that she has been living in her whole life and how she is not going to live that way anymore. In these lines:
“For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo. ” (4-5)
you can see the fear that the speaker lived in for thirty years. She was too scared of her father to even sneeze.
In stanzas, two and three are where the speaker introduces the audience to the idea that she has killed her father.
“Daddy I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time—“(6-7).
Here it is unclear as to whether the speaker actually killed her father because he died before she had time to do something. The speaker could be saying that she killed her father but only in her mind.
“I used to pray to recover you
Ach, du” (14-15).
The speaker says “recover you” which means “regain” beings she tries to get her father back into her life, but when she says “used to” the impression is she no longer needs or wants her father in her life. Ach, du” is German meaning “Oh, you” but it is unclear as to whether the speaker is angry or sad. Stanzas four through six describe the Polack town where the speaker’s father came from, but lines (19-23)
“But the name of the town is common
My Polack friend
Says there are a dozen or two.
So I could never tell where you
Put your foot, your root,”
the speaker explains that she will never know where her father came from. The speaker continues on into the German language and how it terrified her because it reminded her of her father. She says how she could barely speak around him and
“The tongue stuck in my jaw.
It stuck in a barb wire snare. ” (25-26)
describes how painful it was to talk to her father or in German.
“I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene” (29-30).
Here the speaker sees every German as her father and how language disturbs her. The speaker has terrible memories of her father. The speaker then begins to compare herself to a Jew and describes the relationship between her father as that of a Jew and a Nazi in lines (34-35), “I began to talk like a Jew. I think I may well be a Jew. ” The fear and terror she experiences around her father is very disturbing because of the metaphor she uses. The speaker uses the next stanza to describe her father’s appearance. She has always feared him and his German characteristics: his language, the German air force. His “neat mustache” and “blue eye” (43-44). A mustache iconic of Hitler’s and blue eye referring to the ideal human race of blue-eyed blondes that Hitler was trying to create.
“I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty when I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do. ” (57-60).
The speaker’s father died when she was ten and ten years later she tried to kill herself. Sylvia Plath also tried to kill herself when she was about twenty years old. The speaker, just like Plath, did not succeed. The speaker tried to kill herself in hopes to get closer to her father. She thinks that by dying their spirits or at least their bones will be together. After the speaker had recovered she decided what she needed to do next was make a model of her father.
“And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,” (63-64).
Now she doesn’t mean a physical model, but a person. She decided to marry a man like her father. The speaker describes this man to qualities like that of Hitler (like her father) and his love for the “rack and screw” (66) which are both gruesome instruments used for torture. Next in line 71, “If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two –“the speaker implies that not only has she “killed” her father but she has killed her husband now.
“The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years if you want to know. ” (72-74).
The speaker again uses the word vampire except now she is using it to describe her husband. Her husband is described to be sucking the life out of her just a vampire sucks the blood from a body, just like her father did for thirty years. At first, the speaker makes it sound like she has been married for only a year but then changes it to seven. This could be because their marriage has run together in a blur of unhappiness and upon further thought, she realizes it has actually been seven years. Sylvia Plath was married to Ted Hughes for about seven years, as well.
At the ending of the poem, the speaker uses to say that her father needed to be killed just like a vampire with a stake to the heart. “There’s a stake in your fat, black heart. ” (76). Then the speaker tells us that nobody liked her father either and they danced on his grave because they also saw him be like that of a vampire, sucking the life out of people and the reason for so much unhappiness. The very last line of the poem, “Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through. ” (80), the speaker uses to finally be done with her father. This is the peak of the poem and I picture the speaker to spit this line right at father and finally free herself. In Sylvia Plath’s poem, Daddy, she tells a chilling description of a man whom she compares to Hitler, a man who is her daddy. This poem uses many different metaphors to compare different things: vampires, black hearts, black shoes, Nazis, and Jews. All of these add to the image the speaker is trying to create of her father. The cruelty of this man is completely disturbing. The word “daddy” is usually used as a term of endearment for a father, but in this poem, the speaker uses it sarcastically to demean her father because he never truly was a father to her.
The fear and horror inflicted on the speaker come out in the poem in the angry tone she uses throughout the piece. Daddy? This man was no father at all.
“Daddy: Stanza 16 Summary. ” Shmoop: Homework Help, Teacher
Test Prep. N. p. , n. d. Web. 7 Feb. 2013. http://www. shmoop. сom/daddy-sylvia-plath/stanza-16-summary.html.
Plath, Sylvia. “Daddy – Sylvia Plath. ” internal. org > poets. N. p. , n. d. Web. 7 Feb. 2013. http://www. internal. org/Sylvia_Plath/Daddy.
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