Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Some Excerpts from A Long Discussion on Sylvia Plath's poem "Daddy"

If there was any poem that could bring out emotion in me it was “Daddy“ by Sylvia Plath. It was like a slap in the face. You could tell that this person really hated someone. The imagery in this poem was amazing. Plath seemed to appeal to a person’s heart more so than the mind, but you have to read it a couple times before you can pull some of the ideas from it.

To me the poem was about a person that was maybe concieved to a Jewish woman who was maybe raped by a German soldier or officer. I come by this conclusion because of the person’s inconsistancy with whether he or she is or isn’t saying “I think I may well be a Jew” and then later saying “I may be a bit of a Jew.” I get the German referencing from the fact that she seems to hate everything that has to do with German and discribes her father as having a “neat mustache” and “Aryan eye, bright blue.” These are classic symbols of a German officer.

Now let’s take a look at the imagery.

And a head in the freakish Atlantic/ Where it pours bean green over blue/In the waters off the Nauset.

All I can picture here is some sort of aquatic animal, perhaps a dolphin, sticking its head out of the waves created by some ship. It suggests that the person is making a voyage from perhaps England to the US. We also get the idea that this person was taken away to a concentration camp of some kind on a train because of the references to the major camps of the time period.

I just don’t know what else to say other than that this poem really threw me into reality. My heart beats a little bit faster every time I read it. The words just throw you into Germany. Things like “swastika” and “Fascist”. I just can not imagine what it would be like to live during this time. The fear, the hatred, the utter disgust. Even thinking about it as I type makes me want to cry. I can honestly say that this poem scared the heck out of me.

I can understand that you were bothered by the poem; I’ll declare that it is not my favorite... But I really don’t think that it’s about a German soldier at all. (politely disagreeing)

I thought that it really was about her father—that her father was not good to her, that they didn’t have any sort of substantial relationship, that she clearly didn’t want to have anything to do with her father.

Moira brings up some great points in her entry—go check it out. Also, Gina Burgese and I had discussed most of the poems verbally in the computer lab last night while we blogged... You might want to look at their perspectives, too. I didn’t do a long entry on this poem, but I don’t really think that it’s about the Holocaust. Despite the fact that it makes references to the German language, Aryan characteristics, and even “Meinkampf” the poem was written in 1963, so I honestly think that unless it was an exploration of the history at the time, it’s not about the Holocaust.


I think poetry is definitely open to discussion. We can never truly know what the author had in mind unless she comes right out and tells us in an analysis or anthology or otherwise...

I appreciate that you’ve taken my viewpoint into consideration—and I can sort of see with the clues you’ve noted how you can ellicit the vision of a German soldier. I still think that Plath knew her father: the very first stanza, line 3-4 says, “In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white...” Later, in stanza six, line 4 Plath says “I thought every German was you.” Stanza 9 in the first line: “I have always been scared of you...”

I tend to think that with these descriptions that there was a relationship, although not a good one. I recognize your presented situation of not knowing a father, but thinking that you “know” a person that people tell you about... I somehow don’t think that is the case in this poem, either. Call me Devil’s Advocate in this case, if you’d like. Just because she thought every German was him doesn’t mean that she knew him. She could have been told that her father was a German, or seen a picture of him, and therefore was looking for a person that fit the description. That also constitutes the thinking that she could be scared of him because of the picture or the description that was given to her.

I understand that you are playing Devil’s Advocate, but at the same time I have to back myself up. I think what we are seeing here is two completely different viewpoints on the way a poem can be taken. I have read many opinions on this poem, and there is going to be one good discussion in class about this. After reading a lot of the comments, i am confused on my own view now. The one part of the poem goes

With my gypsy ancestress and my wierd luck

And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack

I may be a bit like a Jew

During WWII the Germans tried to get rid of all the Jews and Gypsies. Both were seen as inferior to the German population. Many gypsies were sent to concentration camps along with Jews. According to some information perhaps 250,000 gypsies were killed. In my opinion she did not kill her father, it seems to me that he was killed during the war. It seems that her mother had a fling with this guy and she was the product. Once the war started, he turned them in as being gypsies and didn’t say anything. It states, “the villagers never liked you. . . they always knew it was you”


This poem is by far one of the more confusing ones to interpret. However, it helps to look at Plath’s background and biography. If you want to see my view on “Daddy”, take a look at my blog and let me know what you think. Plath was not a gypsy nor was she Jewish, but she was trying to make the comparison as a victim to her father, who was German. Her father died when she was young and I assume she tried to make him into a horrible person (like a Nazi) to let go of his memory. I am also looking forward to the class discussion on this one.


……..I find her poem “daddy” downright disturbing. Sure, she might resent her father for dying or for whatever happened thorugh her childhood but there is absolutely no justification of her comparing this father-daughter relationship to that of a Nazi and a Jew. The metaphor she uses is shocking. She cannot begin to understand what the Jews must ahve gone through during the Nazi regime. She cannot compare herself with these minority groups when she was a wealthy American and had a great life, got to go to college etc. It’s jsut something you cant do. It’s downright insulting to the Jews and she can’t talk about concentration camps as if she knows what it feels to be in one of them. Because she can never realize the full extent of the horrors that went on there. Her life is nothing compared to what happened to the innocent people who were killed, tortured and treated as animals. She has no idea.


Sure, Sylvia may have felt some resentment toward her father and his death, but I don’t think that that’s what this poem is about. She deeply loved her father.

It’s the image of her father, the looming mythological representation of “father figure” that she’s lashing out against, the fact that his death has been a deterrence to her development as a human being, not some hollowly angry attack on her father himself. It’s all the bad things she sees as that “father figure” entailing, much like her larger-than-life representation of father in “The Colossus”.

Insinuations that this poem deals with physical or sexual abuse are misguided. Read the poem again, keeping in mind the idea of not necessarily her father himself, but that image she’s been keeping to that figure.


Plath says her father is “Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,” which means she has thoughts that consist of hard/cold, expensive but importantly impressive.

When she states “So i never could tell where you Put your foot, your root” is the fact that they moved from Germany.

“I never could talk” is emphasised later through the stutter “Ich, ich, ich, ich, I could hardly speak”

“every woman adores a fascist” abuse is acceptable


I think what Daddy is really about is Plath’s frustration with a patriarchal society. In the Bell Jar, she is constantly in conflict with her mother, Buddy, other girls in the dorm, and just about everyone else in her life who think she will give up poetry/intellectual life the moment she marries the unvirgin Buddy and has children with him. He, on the other hand, insists that she be a virgin-- something she cannot comprehend. Every woman loves a facist. A big boot in her face.

Daddy refers to the feminine childhood protector, he who will take care of his little girl. I think this poem is the realization that all their protections the men put on women is actually a Nazi-esque oppression……….

……..She thought she loved her father but of course she was too young when he died to know him well.. and then when she married a man who is supposedly very similar, that she actually saw him as her father, she started to hate him (husband and father, since her husband embodies her father in her mind now) and realized that she did not want her father back anymore. She believed that her husband’s actions were also her fathers in a way... a psychotic way. Did that make any sense? oh well.……..


The Psyche Of Sylvia Plath

……..Sylvia Plath was totally selfish, self obsessed and a malign influence on all who became close to her (not that it would seem there were many) Her suicide was her supreme act of selfishness and served to jettison her to fame for what are indifferent poems. She appears as the eternal victim of malign male influences and is delusionary in her revenge……

….. Most of these critics I read say things like, “the poem couldn’t have been about her hating her father if she loved him” and other crazy things. Sometimes you love someone with all of your heart, but they hurt you really badly and what they did to you is unforgivable. I think it’s quite possible that she had an incestous relationship with her father because she fits the mold. Something like that changes a person deeply and it’s always a lingering darkness in your life.

Sometimes though, there is such a thing as over analyzing. it doesn’t really matter a lot of the time, I mean for example, how she mentions the Jew or Nazi relationship...it doesn’t necessarily mean that she knows what it’s like to have gone through a holocaust, it just means that...okay, if you were a Jew who had gone to a concentration camp and lived through that, you would never forget it. How she was treated by these two men in her life, ted huges and otto plath, hurt her and she won’t ever forget it. Just because in the scheme of everything and everyone in the world your problem isn’t that large doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt every bit as much.

Sylvia Plath was an amazing woman and my favorite writer of all time. Just the fact that this poem led so many different people to talk about it and have so many different views attributes to it’s genius.


I think that this poem is interesting to look at, as she discusses losing her father, and the effect this has on her. Then, as she goes through her emotional journey of how she interpreted her father to be, she comes to the conclusion that she does not in fact like what he stood for at all, which is where we get our first hint of the inclusion of Ted Hughes (her husband) . The fact that she paints such a negative and destructive view of both men, or the ‘one man’, is perhaps justification for her not minding, and perhaps liking the fact that they are no longer in her life. She finally concludes with a very strong repetition of the word ‘Daddy’ accompanied with ‘bastard’ which is how she summises the entire experience with both of them. This poem is all the things a poem should be’ evocative. passionate and very true of how the poet is feeling. There are no false pretences whatsoever. Syvia Plath, was an extrodinary poet, and this is one of her most incredible, yet haunting pieces of work.


The truth is that, without Sylvia able to explain word for word what the symbolism and imagery in her poetry truly means, we are ALL making assumptions. And we are ALL projecting what we believe the poem is about into our own reading of it. Your personal take on the poem is just that - personal. Your reading will always be subjective. That is a reality. So, can we, rather than argue about what this poem is about, simply state what kind of impact it has on us and admit that our readings are ours alone? Can we, without becoming critical of how other people have read this work, collectively admire the beauty of Sylvia’s work? Her ability to leave us breathless with her words is far from common and she deserves recognition for such incredible talent.


All readings of poetry are subjective, but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t discuss it or try and analyse it; after all, if we didn’t, all literature would just be words on a page. Ezra Pound said ‘Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree’, and I’m inclined to agree; Plath’s poems are engaging and fascinating precisely because they entertain such a multiplicity of responses. If a poet invests so much energy into writing a poem, then I think it’d be a shame to gloss over it, reducing it to paraphrase and simplistic readings. It’s a two-way medium.

Having said that, I think the suggestions of incest are perhaps a little speculative. :) I agree with Benjamin; the patriarchal figures in the poem, who ostensibly refer to Hughes and Plath’s father, are images, almost caricatures. The vampire imagery, for instance, is grotesquely comic; its directness seems to me to be at odds with Plath’s tendency towards allusion and suggestion. I also agree with the notion that the poem looks outside of the personal sphere towards culture and society in general. I think ‘Daddy’ is at least partially concerned with the ‘peanut-crunching crowds’ of ‘Lady Lazarus’ - the poem seems to be performing a role, playing up to a part to some extent - but I’d argue that it goes the other way as well, that this assumption of a role reflects back upon her emotional landscape and her personal life as well.


In this poem, Plath is an angry child who was intimidated by her dad “for thirty years, poor and white, barely daring to breathe or Achoo”. The “wars, wars, wars,” to me implied her internal war or conflict of loving and hating her father. I have a few things to put out there. the first is the stanze construction. it you have ever heard Plath read this poem, you will notice that she doesn’t pause at “natural breaks”, like between stanzas. she reads the poem lik how you would read a story, by the sentence. so why did she choose to write half a sentence in one stanza and the other half in the next stanza? also, the second last line, who is “you”? the repeated symbols “feet” and “shoes” makes me think that she felt trapped and confined like a foot in a shoe.


The poem Daddy is about Plath’s thinly disguised hatred of her father and of her husband. There are many metaphorical allusions to molestation, such as “Ghastly statue with one grey toe”, or the stanza “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” - what is the root, is ‘tongue stuck in my jaw kissing”?


“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 Nazis hated the jews, and yet here is her Daddy “chuffing her off like a Jew” To chuff is to make noisy exhalations, do I need to be more clear?

She may have loved her dad, but hated him and depicted it quite clearly; in fact she shoves it in your face.


If it’s only about an abusive daddy...

If this poem was only about dealing with a terrible relationship with father and husband and is suicidal, I wouldn’t feel so moved by it or be able to relate to it. I have a wonderful father and no husband to complain about. I am also not suicidal. I have always seen this poem in terms of a woman’s reaction to a patriarchal society that has been oppressive and stiffling. One has to realize that this poem was written during a time when women were not particularly free. Anyone who has read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan knows what I’m talking about. If it was strictly personal it wouldn’t have resonated with so many people. I also feel the Nazi imagery is an accessible image of oppression and abuse. Just like when John Lennon said “woman is the nigger of the world.” The image of “nigger” brings to mind those who suffer oppression and prejudice. Also, the line “Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through” can be both an expression of giving up and can also be saying that she won’t put up with it anymore and wants to be free of “daddy.” I think the fact that she killed herself has clouded the minds of so many readers of her poetry. It’s not completely separate, but its not all there is either. People are so ready to find symptoms of her tragic death that I think they often miss the point. This is just my perception of it, I think all creative work can be seen in many different ways and they are all valid as long as the work supports the arguments. I just wanted to give my perception.


What happened to a brilliant person? Sylvia Plath hated her father for dying. She was the center of his life when her mother was pregnant. She didn’t have time to grow up and naturally separate her idea of him; thinking he is God! She hated him for abandoning her. How could Sylvia abandon her own two small children by committing suicide? No excuses!

You can not just give up with lives on the line. While they were still sleeping she placed cookies and two glasses of milk beside their bed, placed towels under their door, went to the kitchen turned on the gas, opened the oven door, knelt down next to the open door and rested her head on it. She timed it around the au-pair arriving. No excuses! She abandoned her children! Did she realize what that would do to them? She should have been stronger for them! Just like the woman who drowned all her children in the bathtub, unacceptable! I don’t care for weakness! Whether someone you know is always moody or takes drugs to deal with life’s troubles, poor little baby! Become an adult and deal with whatever life throws your way. No excuses! If her father didn’t die and was around throughout her life, hugging her, praising her, loving her, would she even have become a poet? Parents love your children!


Plath’s reasons to die.

Psychoanalytically speaking, the mental breakdown that Plath suffers from is scientifically proved to be a good reason for committing suicide for she could not bear it, keep balance, feel fine, go ahead normally or be her own fixed character. depression after depression, breakdown after breakdown are really enough to make a person think seriously in committing suicide in order to put an end to this painful endless suffering.

whatever people have said about Plath’s life and if she is right or not for committing suicide, I think it’s her own conflicts and experience and nobody can know the limits of her suffering of illness, depression, childhood, her kids, work, responsibilities, her search for her real self to set the real identity and her unsatisfied wishes.

Plath saw death as a real path by which she can solve her conflicts and satisfy her wishes and needs, set her real self that will decide moves and takes action. For Plath, it was a killing illness, unbearable situation, unsolved troubles and never satisfied ambitions so dying is an art to get rid of all of that.

Anyway, if it happened that anyone of us was under such a condition, her or she will surly kill him/her self or stay mad forever. At least, Plath did her best to face everything, to struggle her community, to try her best even to taste the tasteless everyday life, to keep balance, to take care of her kids, to work, to write, to read, to be someone else, someone real and better... but when she could not, she preferred to end her meaningless life in her own exceptional way: by committing suicide. Plath is way greater than it has ever said.


The title of “Daddy” means relationship between father and girl. Plath wrote this poem when she divorced her husband, so there are three people - Plath, her father and her husband in this poem. For example, in the ninth stanza ‘If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two’ means her father and her husband. This poem may mean relationship between woman and man or the weak and the strong.

In the second stanza ‘Daddy, I have had to kill you. You died before I had time-’, her father forsook her by his death. In this poem ‘God, Luftwaffe, black man and devil’ mean her father. He was very big and very strong in her mind. She could not escape from him. She hated him, but she loved him. In the seventh stanza ‘At twenty I tried to die and get back, back, back to you’ show me it. She was very shocked by his death. It is may be that she wrote this poem to get over her sorrow and anger or release from him.

In my conclusion, she tried to kill her father and her husband to release from strong them in her mind. But in sixth stanza ‘Every woman adores a Fascist’ mean that she loves them. I think she wants to be strong like them. In final stanza ‘I’m through means two things. One meaning is finishing revenge against her father’s death. Another meaning is death of Plath. She needed her death to release from them.


Sylvia Plath expressed burying the image of her father in “Daddy”.

In this poem, she equates her father with Ted Hughes.

I made a model of you,

A man in black with a Meinkampf look

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two –

Above stands for the identification of these two man. According to Guinevara A. Nance and Judice P. Jones’ essay on “Daddy”, ““Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.” The virulence of this and the statements immediately preceding it indicates a ritualistic attempt to transform the little girl’s love into the adult’s hatred and thereby kill the image which has preyed upon her.” Moreover, she composed this poetry in 1962 when she divorced her.

To consider these things, her divorce was the prompt of exorcist for her father’s image she was young.

Seven years, if you want to know.

The number ‘seven’ means the period Plath and Ted lived together. I suppose it means also the title of the movie, “The Seven Years Itch”, whose story is the man falls in love with the woman lives next door when his wife and children go out for the long rest. ‘Seven’ involves also the short story, “Watching Me, Watching You”,which is written by the English woman feminist writer, Fay Weldon. Two women, who separates from the same playboy, appears in the story. Below is the speech by one of them.

“Seven years bad luck,” said Anne.

In this scene, Anne grieves that her ex-lover make a love with his new lover and she cannot forget him. Furthermore, she has a child of him. Therefore, ‘seven’ is related to capriciousness.

“Daddy” is about a girl with an Electra complex. She possesses feelings of love-hatred towards her father. The speaker lost her father when she was ten years old. She cannot get over his death.

The speaker compares herself to a foot. Black shoe is her father’s. The color of black reminds us of his death.

She also compares her father to a nazi and a devil. She refers to the German language in this poem. Her father was German. She says “I thought every German was you”. She cannot actually see him. When her father died, she was very young. So she has to create his image. In the poems, the father is a nazi. On the other hand, the speaker is a Jew. This implies an oppressive relationship. She never cannot talk to him.

Daddy implies incest between a father and a daughter. Her father’s death gave Sylvia great shock. She loved him, while she hated him. She could not deal with his death.

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