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American poet Sylvia Path wrote ‘Daddy’ in 1962 and the poem was published in 1963, shortly after she passed away. Like most pieces of poetry, the true meaning of the ‘Daddy’ is entirely open to interpretation as scholars have encountered different conclusions when reading the poem. ‘Daddy’ is an extremely popular poem and this can be due to Sylvia Path’s intense metaphor of the Holocaust. According to many critics, Sylvia Plath wrote the poem in order to reflect on her relationship with her father, who passed away due to undiagnosed diabetes just after her eight birthday. In regards to the writing scheme, all the rhyming words finish with a vowel sound of ‘oo’ (for example ‘shoe’ ‘blue’ you’ ‘do’ ‘through’).
Born in Boston, Sylvia Plath became a respected novelist, short-story writer and poet during her brief lifetime (1932-1963). Plath married poet Ted Hughes in 1956 with whom she had two children and travelled between America and England. The young poet suffered greatly from depression, which is reflected in her work and in 1963 she committed suicide.
Sylvia Plath contributed greatly to the growth of confessional poetry. This poetic style flourished in America in the 1950s and focuses on individual experiences, often describing typically ‘taboo’ topics such as suicide and sexuality. Plath is most famous for her two published collections: the Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel. In 1982 the poet was awarded posthumous the Pulitzer Prize for the Collected Poems. Sylvia Plath also published another confessional literary piece, her only novel ‘The Bell Jar’, shortly before her death. The poem was published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas and narrated the protagonist’s battle with mental illness and can be seen as a reflection of the author’s own descent into depression.
Below you can find the poem ‘daddy’ – what do you make of Sylvia Plath’s relationship with her father based on the poem?
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time——
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal
And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
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.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.
It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene
An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.
The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.
I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You——
Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.
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.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.
But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
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.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.
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.
Daddy, you can lie back now.
There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.
Image 1: http://level2english.wikispaces.com/file/view/daddy_first_page.gif/30763809/500x311/daddy_first_page.gif
Image 2: http://www.brainpickings.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/plath.jpg