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 continues 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
Meinkampf look are used to descibe 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
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 repitition "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 bardwire 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"
Athough 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