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Daddy by Sylvia Plath Analysis


  1. Read the poem
  2. About the poet
  3. Summary

About the author – Sylvia Plath was a popular American poet,novelist, and short-story writer. She was known for her painful life and tortured soul. Her poems are mostly confessions about her painful life.


Daddy is a controversial poem of Sylvia Plath. Her words are enough to make the readers feel her pain. In this poem, she writes about her father, after his death. This poem was written just four months before the poet’s own death by suicide. The poem is told from the perspective of a woman about her father, whose memory still plays an important effect in her life. The poet doesn’t cry or lament over the loss of her father, instead she feels a sense of relief.

All Stories by Sylvia Plath - The Atlantic
Sylvia Plath

The poet describes her father using different words, that gives us an idea about their relation. In the beginning of the poem, the speaker tells us that her father is no more in this world, and calls him a ‘black shoe’ in which she had lived like a foot. She had been forced to live like a foot for thirty years, and she grew poor and pale under such oppression of her father. She had lived a life of suffocation and fear until her father’s death. She had even wanted to kill her father, though he had died before she actually got a chance to do so. She calls her father as heavy as a ‘bag full of God’ which gives us an idea of her views regarding God, which is fearful just like her father. Now his dead body looks like a huge statue, who is enormous is figure and has no heart beating now. The speaker then compares her father with the ‘freakish’ Atlantic ocean. The word freakish refers to something very unusual, and strange. Thus this implies that her father was a beautiful human being, but there was something strange about him. At some points during his illness, she had even prayed for his recovery.

Next, the speaker wonders about her father’s origin. He grew up in a Polish town, where he spoke in German language. The town that he grew up in had seen a lots of wars. But, she couldn’t recall the name of the town as it was a common one. For this reason, the speaker could never remember where her father actually came from. She could never gather the courage to ask him about it. She tells her readers that she felt as if her tongue had stuck in her jaw whenever she tried to talk to her father. Whenever she tried to speak to her father, her words were struck in “I..I..I..” She thought that every German man was her father. She viewed him as someone who was harsh, and obscene just like the German language. The speaker even tells that she felt just like a Jew under the reign of the Germans. This is an important comparison to demonstrate the oppression that the speaker faced under her father’s guidance. It was an extremely painful experience, just like the Jews had faced in the hands of the Germans during the Holocaust. She felt like a Jew, being oppressed, without a voice. Hence she says that she could relate to the Jews and considered herself as one. She says that her ancestors were gypsies. Gypsies, just like the Jews were also oppressed by the Nazis. So, she can call herself a half Gypsy and a half Jew. The speaker says that she was always afraid of her father. She believed that he had something to do with the German Air Force. His words had no meaning, and he talked nonsense. He was a symbol of fear, with a neat mustache and bright blue eyes, just like the German Nazis. She compares him with a German tank driver, as she calls him a ‘Panzer man’.

Nazi symbolism - Wikipedia
Nazi symbol

Then, the speaker compared her father to the symbol of ‘swastika’. The swastika is an ancient Indian symbol which was used by the Nazis. Her father was a huge black swastika that covered the entire sky blocking the light. Then she mockingly tells that every woman adores a Fascist, someone who is cruel and oppressive. Women, for some reason, fall in love with ‘brutes’ (a savagely violent person). Then, the speaker imagines her father standing in front of the blackboard. Her father was actually a professor. He had a cleft inn his chin, instead of his foot. Here, the speaker considers her father as the devil. The devil is viewed as having cleft feet, and hence the speaker believes that the cleft in her father’s chin should have been in his feet. His soul is dark, which makes him a ‘black man’. She says that her father had torn her soul, and broken her heart. Even if he was a cruel brute, the poet had loved him as a child. Her father died when she was ten. She had cried for his death until she was twenty years old. In her adulthood, she couldn’t continue to mourn for her father, and ignore his vices. At a point she even thought to kill herself in order to see him again. She tried committing suicide at twenty, but was saved. The doctors had joined her back with glue and given her a new life. However, her life changed completely after this incident. The speaker had created an imaginary model of her father who had a Meinkampf look, referring him to Hitler, the author of Meinkampf. Then she talks about her painful marriage. The man she had married had perfectly recreated the role of her father, and she had not needed to be reminded of her father. She imagines the relation with her father as a telephone call, which now she had ended forever by marrying a similar man. The speaker tells that she had been accused of killing her father. However, she explains that he died before she could get the opportunity to do so. She says that if people think she had killed one man, she had actually killed two, another one being her husband. She refers to her husband as a vampire because he had drained out life from her. In the concluding stanza, the poet says that even though her father had died long ago, his memory has been haunting her just like a vampire. Thus, her father must be killed just like vampire is killed, i.e. with a wooden stake pierced through his heart. She says that the villagers never liked him. That means the people around her always knew about his character. In the ending lines, the poet says that although her father had been dead for multiple years, it is his memory that had been haunting her throughout these years. To end the things from happening, the speaker had called him a ‘bastard’ and moved on.

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