A Critique of the Poem “Daddy” In the poem “Daddy,” Sylvia Plath describes her true feelings about her deceased father.
Throughout the dialogue, the reader can find many instances that illustrate a great feeling of hatred toward the author’s father. She begins by expressing her fears of her father and how he treated her. Subsequently she conveys her outlook on the wars being fought in Germany. She continues by explaining her life since her father and how it has related to him.
In the first stanza the reader realizes that Sylvia Plath is scared of her father. It is quite clear that she never spoke up to him to defend herself. In the first line it is apparent that something is ending. “You do not do, you do not do any more, black shoe,” this shows that she feels that her father cannot hurt her anymore. Also, she knows that she has to let him know how she feels. “In which I have lived like a foot for thirty years, poor and white, barely daring to breathe or achoo,” this expresses her fear of her father, and illustrates the fact that she has remained silent, unable to speak up or even breath any words against him. “Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time–,” this portrays the extent of her hatred toward him. That she was so appalled by his character that she would end his life if only she had the strength. But he died before she grew strong enough to stand up to his horrible countenance. The next portion of the poem, “Marble-heavy, a bag full of God, Ghastly statue with one grey toe big as a Frisco seal,” shows how large she sees his presence. Comparing him to the weight of marble with the powers of God. However the one grey toe, which was injured, and allowed for sickness to set in, brought him to nothing. Something she had not the power to do, and something as insignificant as a tiny sore could.“In 1940, Otto developed a sore on his toe and ignored the condition until gangrene overtook the toe and he was hospitalized.
Doctors performed surgery, but it was too late. Otto’s toe was amputated in hopes of saving him. Sylvia’s father passed away in November, 1940.” Source: Butscher, Edward.
Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness. New York: The Seabury Press, 1976.The next passage, “And a head in the freakish Atlantic where it pours bean green over blue, in the waters off beautiful Nauset.” describes how Sylvia felt when she heard of her fathers’ infection in his foot. She thinks of it in a kind of hideous way that makes her sick. “I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du,” shows me that she still cared about her father and prayed for him while he was ill. It is amazing that even though she knew her father didn’t care for her, Sylvia still cared enough for him to worry. But he still didn’t care that she worried. The passage “In the German tongue, in the Polish town scraped flat by the roller of wars, wars, wars,”shows the plot of the poem, where everything took place. This also hints on the period in history when this happened, however, it doesn’t tell us exactly. In the following stanza it explains further. “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.” This tells me that she is looking for where he is from. She doesn’t exactly know where he was raised or what his background is because there are many towns with the same name. Therefore, she is unable to understand his upbringing, which developed his coldhearted character.
As Sylvia gets older and begins to understand the wars in Germany, she relates her life to the many conflicts they bring with them. “The tongue stuck in my jaw. It stuck in a barbwire snare. Ich, ich, ich, ich, I could hardly speak.” Again this describes her fear toward her father. She is so afraid of him that she can’t talk and speak out against him.
The barbwire represents the war that was taking place. She relates to the victims of war and sees herself caught in the barbwire that has been put up by her father, which keeps them separated. “I thought every German was you. And the language obscene an engine, an engine chuffing me off like a Jew.” This shows that she saw the similarities between the Germans and her father. Her father sometimes treated her as badly as the Jews were being treated.
He didn’t think of her as a daughter, but rather as a thing that was a burden to him. “A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.” These were concentration camps. She compared her inner fear of her father and her hatred for him to these camps. She felt as if she was trapped inside one of these camps with no one to turn to. “I began to talk like a Jew. I think I may well be a Jew.” Again, she describes herself as a Jew feeling like her father is pushing her away.
“The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna are not very pure or true.” This shows that she realizes her father is a harmful man. She knows that some things, like her father, are not very honest or moral. It is like she understands her father’s ways and realizes that they are not his own, but are the ways of the Germans. “With my gypsy-ancestress and my weird luck and my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack I may be a bit of a Jew.” She is questioning her relations with her father. She accepts that she is not like him. In a way wishes she were a Jew.
She had rather be his born enemy than his daughter that he cared nothing for. “I have always been scared of you, with your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.” She admits her fear to her father. This is the first time she has stood up to him. And even though he is dead it makes her feel better to do this.
“And your neat moustache and your Aryan eye, bright blue. Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You” This describes her fathers appearance. She also makes reference to the distinguishing characteristics of the Aryan race. The German belief in a perfect civilization where everyone has blue eyes and blonde hair is the root of their racial discrimination. “Not God but a swastika so black no sky could squeak through.” She disagrees with the swastika symbol and thinks of it as an evil idol. Seeing that everything it stands for is wrong and unjust she is opposed to it. “Every woman adores a Fascist, the boot in the face, the brute brute heart of a brute like you.
” She is mocking the brutality German men show toward women. The German militaristic culture developed a behavior of man, which had little respect for the women in their society.In her later years, Sylvia is able to reflect on life with her father in a more objective manner. “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 any less the black man who bit my pretty red heart in two.” She describes him as a devil with a cleft in his chin symbolizing the hoofed foot of s demon.
In her eyes he is a monster whom she has been afraid to confront all of her life. She admits that he has hurt her in the past. She references him with the color black, to illustrate that he is a kind of dark person. “I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die and get back, back, back to you.” She compares her father’s death with the attempted suicide of her own. She felt that if she could die that it would punish her father. “I thought even the bones would do. But they pulled me out of the sack, and they stuck me together with glue.
” This passage states that she almost died. People took care of her and prevented her from committing suicide. “And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you, a man in black with a Meinkampf look and a love of the rack and the screw. And I said I do, I do.” Since she could not bring her father back to life she decided to find someone just like her father. She married a man that resembled her father and even acted like him.
“So daddy, I’m finally through. The black telephone’s off at the root, the voices just can’t worm through.” She realizes that she has given up hope of living. She can’t hear anyone anymore trying to tell her to live. She doesn’t want to listen to them anymore. “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.” She describes her husband as a Vampire.
It is similar to the way she thinks of her father. She compares them with symbols that are both evil. “Daddy, you can lie back now. There’s a stake in your fat black heart and the villagers never liked you.” This shows the comparison of her husband and her father. She describes them both now as vampires. She expresses a feeling similar to that of the general German population, many of which disliked the ways of Nazis. “They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.” The people that knew her father didn’t like him, nor did they like the ways of the Luftwaffe. They are glad that he and the powers of the Nazis are dead and are celebrating. “Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.” This shows that her life of worrying and being scared of her father is over. She has been running from the thought of him her entire life.
Sylvia has resolved all her problem with him and finally managed to leave the life that she knew behind.It is apparent that Sylvia wishes to introduce her readers to what life would have been like for the women and children within Nazi Germany. The upbringing and treatment was often harsh and mentally destructive. Being raised in a militarily based home, she was treated as if she were a burden to her father. She often relates her own persecution by her father to the discrimination Germany had toward the Jews. Sylvia had many struggles in her life that were cause by either her father, Germany, or her husband.
All of which left her with a feeling of insignificance, as if they would have been happier without her. It is certain that this feeling she expresses is also felt and carried by other German wives and children. The basic purpose of the poem is to dictate her feelings toward all of these men, mainly her father. This release of all that has been carried inside her is a means of closure for the treatment she has received. As a larger picture, Sylvia has also documented, from the inside, what it was like for the German dependant in a time of terrible hatred toward people who were seen as weak and insignificant.