Daddy: A Poem By Sylvia Plath


In the poem "Daddy", Sylvia Plath says that there are women
who, due to early conditioning, find themselves without the
tools to deal with oppressive and controlling men. They are
left feeling helpless and hopeless. For some women, the
struggle is never resolved, others take most of a lifetime.
For a lucky few, they are granted a reprieve. The speaker
in this poem is Sylvia Plath. The poem describes her
feelings of oppression and her battle to come to grips with
the issues of this power imbalance. The poem also conjures
the struggle many women face in a male dominated society.
The conflict of this poem is male authority and control
versus the right of a female to be herself, to make
choices, and be free of male domination. Plath's conflicts
begin in her relationship with her father and continue with
her husband. The intensity of this conflict is extremely
apparent as she uses examples that cannot be ignored. The
atrocities of NAZI' Germany are used as symbols of the
horror of male domination. The constant and crippling
manipulation of the male, as he introduces oppression and
hopelessness into the lives of his women, is equated with
the twentieth century's worst period. Words such as
Luftwaffe, panzerman, and Mein Kampf look are used to
describe her father and husband as well as all male
domination. The frequent use of the word black throughout
the poem conveys a feeling of gloom and suffocation. Like
many women in society, we know that Plath felt oppressed
and stifled throughout her life by her use of the simile "I
have lived like a shoe for thirty years poor and white,
barely able to breath or Achoo." The use of similes and
metaphors such as "Chuffing me off like a Jew. A Jew to
Dachau, Auschwitz, Belson." and "I think I may well be a
Jew" clearly shows the feelings of anguished hopelessness
and the ripping agony she must have felt. 
The agelessness of this poem is guaranteed as there will
always be women who feel the same torture that is
described. . Strong images are conveyed throughout the
poem. The words "marble- heavy, a bag full of God" conveys
the omniscience of her father's authority and the heaviness
it weighed on her throughout her life. "The vampire who
said he was you, and drank my blood for a year, seven years
if you want to know" describe her husband and the ability
of male power to strip a person of their own sense of
 The poem is written in stanzas of five short lines. These
lines remind me of a Mike Tyson jab, short but extremely
powerful. An example of this "If I've killed one man I've
killed two-- The vampire who said he was you". The powerful
imagery of these lines overpowers any of the rhyme scheme.
The tone of this poem is an adult engulfed in outrage. This
outrage, at times, slips into the sobs of a child. This is
evident by Plath's continued use of the word daddy and the
childlike repetition "You do not do, you do not do" and
"Daddy, daddy, you bastard". Fear from her childhood moves
her in directions that will take her far from herself. In
one line in the poem she brings us starkly into the world
of a child's fear. She uses words that sound like the words
of a child staring out at us from behind "a barbwire snare"
"I have always been scared of you." This poem portrays a
bleak picture of life for some women. However, we know that
Plath was able to resolve her conflicts. She states " Daddy
I've had to kill you" and "Daddy, you can lie back now.
There's a stake in your big fat black heart" Although it
appears that Plath has reached resolution this is not the
case for many women who find themselves under the thumb of
a male. These women should look to this poem for help. It
is a beautiful argument that clearly shows that she climbed
from total domination by a male to freedom 


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