Daddy

Daddy

by Sylvia Plath

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.
Ach, du.

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 b***, I’m through.

Summary of Daddy

  • Popularity of “Daddy”: Sylvia Plath, a famous American poet and novelist, wrote ‘Daddy’, a famous literary piece. This poem is about her father. It was first published in 1965. The poem presents the speaker’s grief over the loss of her father. It also shows violence against women and the impacts of male domination. The poem also presents a generation gap that is the root cause of their disturbed relation.
  • “Daddy”. As a Representative of Loss: This poem is written from the perspective of a daughter who has lost her father. The speaker, very skillfully, presents the graphic picture of her father and narrates how her father used to treat her when he was alive. Ironically, she neither longs to see him again nor does she lament his loss. Instead, she talks about the freedom and relief she feels after his death. Her father was a harsh and obscene German man who failed to give her comfort, love, and support she needed and crippled her life. Even though he was cruel, brutal and overbearing, she loved him. Also, after his death, she married a man who looked like her father which added more pain to her memories. Throughout the poem, she compares herself with Jews and her father with Nazis to explain her father’s nature.
  • Major Themes in “Daddy”: Love, hatred, and loss are the major themes in the poem. The tormented speaker describes her life with her father before his death. He never gave her love and support and forced her to live a life of sufferings, misery, and pain. The experience and torture took away her identity. Despite his cold behavior, she loved him dearly. Unfortunately, her husband, who resembled her father is compared to a vampire, must have abused her and her marriage lasted seven years. By the end of the poem, she gives up and stops running after the shadow of her father.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “Daddy”

Literary devices are tools that the writers use to compare and explain the deeper significance of the poem. Sylvia Plath has also used similes, metaphors, images and sound devices to reveal hidden messages about her relationship with her father. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /a/ in “They are dancing and stamping on you” and the sound of /e/ in “I was ten when they buried you”.
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the different objects. The poet has compared her father, husband and most men, in general with, ‘Black shoe’; ‘Ghastly statue’; ‘Panzer- man’ and ‘Vampire’.
  3. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. The poet describes her father as a train taking her to a concentration camp. For example,

“An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.”

  1. Onomatopoeia: It refers to the word which imitates the natural sounds of the things. For example, ‘achoo’ and ‘ich’.
  2. Enjambment: Enjambment refers to the continuation of a sentence without the pause beyond the end of a line, couplet or stanza. For example,

“There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.”

  1. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /m/ in “I made a model of you,” and the sound of /h/ in “Daddy, I have had to kill you”.
  2. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Any more, black shoe, In which I have lived like a foot”; “And your Aryan eye, bright blue” and “But they pulled me out of the sack.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /k/ in “I began to talk like a Jew” and the sound of /r/ in “Are not very pure or true”.
  4. Simile: It is a figure of speech used to compare and to make the meanings clear to the readers. There are two similes used in this poem. For example,Big as a Frisco seal”. The father’s toe is compared to a massive San Francisco’s seal. In the sixth stanza, “I began to talk like a Jew” the poet compares herself with the Jews.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “Daddy”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem. 

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are 80 lines in this poem with sixteen stanzas.
  2. Quintin: A Quintin is a five lined stanza. Here, each stanza consists of five lines.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: There is no specific rhyme scheme used in this poem.
  4. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. The examples of end rhymes are most lines that end with ‘oo’ sound. For example, “blue/you” and “true/Jew.”

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used to express the feelings of fear. These can also be used by children to express the fear they feel when talking with their father.

“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.”