Daddy By Sylvia Plath

Daddy By Sylvia Plath Summary & Analysis

Daddy By Sylvia Plath
Daddy By Sylvia Plath


            The poem entitled “Daddy” is one of the most popular poems written by ‘Sylvia Plath’. It was written in October 1962 and published posthumously in 1965 as part of the collection ‘Ariel’. It was the last phase of her life when she separated herself from her husband ‘Ted Hughes’, and began to live in London. Four months later, Path was dead, but she wrote some of her best poems during that turbulent period.

            Although it has sometimes been regarded as Sylvia Path’s most disturbing and confessional poem. It is a dark at times painful allegory that uses metaphor and other devices to carry the idea of a female victim finally freeing herself from her father. In Plath’s words:

“Here is a poem spoken by a girl
 with an Electra Complex.
Her father died while she
 thought he was God.

Her case is complicated by
the fact that her father
was also a Nazi and her
mother very possibly Jewish.

In the daughter, the two strains
marry and paralyze each other.
She has to act out the awful
little allegory once over
Before she is free of it.”

About Sylvia Plath

            Sylvia Plath was a popular American poet, novelist, and short story writer. She was known for her painful life and tortured soul. Her poems are mostly confessions about her painful life. Her father Otto Plath, was a German émigré and her mother, Aurelia Schober, was an American of Australian Jewish descent. She loved and worshipped her father ardently. He died when she was eight. The death of her father was a traumatic event of her childhood. She married a British poet Ted Hughes in 1956 and had two children. The couple separated in 1962.

            Sylvia Plath’s first book of poems ‘The Colossus’ was published in 1960. Her only novel “The Bell Jar” appeared in 1963. ‘Ariel’, ‘Crossing the Water’, and ‘Winter Trees’ were published posthumously.  

Daddy- Biographical Context

            Sylvia Plath had a complicated relationship with her father. He was a German immigrant who taught biology and married one of his students. He was diabetic but ignored the signs of his failing health. He put off going to the hospital for so long that by the time he did seek medical help, his foot had to be amputated and he died from the resulting complications, Plath was 8 years old.

Her father was reportedly cruel and despotic but Plath loved him deeply and was forever affected by his death. When she married fellow poet Ted Hughes, who turned out to be abusive and unfaithful, Plath claimed that she was trying to reunite with her father by marrying a man similar to him.

About The Title

            The poem ‘Daddy’ addresses the speaker’s father directly, and her relationship with her deceased father is the main focus of the poem. So the title of this poem is apt and appropriate.


            The poem contains a total of 16 stanzas, 5 lines in each stanza, which means a total of 10 lines. There is no specific rhyme scheme used in this poem.

Themes Of The Poem

            The poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath is a very complex poem that explores a variety of themes including:

The oppressive nature of patriarchy

            The speaker of the poem feels suffocated by her father’s memory and the patriarchal system he represents. She sees him as a Nazi, a vampire, and a boot that crushes her spirit.

 The Haunting Power of Trauma

            The speaker’s father died when she was young, but his absence still haunts her. She struggles to come to terms with her grief and anger. She feels trapped by her past.

The Search for Freedom

            The speaker desperately wants to be free from her father’s influence and the oppressive patriarchy he represents. She imagines killing him, which symbolizes her desire to absorb his power.

The Duality of Love and Hate

            The speaker’s relationship with her father is complex and contradictory. She loves him and hates him at the same time. She is attracted to his power and strength, but she is also repelled by his cruelty and fascism.

In addition to these central themes, “Daddy” also explores other important issues such as fascism, and the Holocaust. It is a deeply personal poem but it also speaks about the universal human experience of loss, grief, and Trauma.

Analysis Of Daddy Poem

            The poem tells the story of an extremely dysfunctional relationship between a daughter and her father. The poem begins with the speaker describing her father in several different ways. In the very first Stanza, she compares him with a “Black Shoe” and the speaker herself has felt “Like a Foot” that has been forced to live thirty years in that shoe. The stanza reveals that the speaker felt not only suffocated by her father but fearful of him as well.

            In fact, she expresses that her fear of him was so intense that she was afraid of even breather or sneezing. The first four stanzas give us the emotions of Sylvia Plath towards her father. As she writes;

“You do not do, you do not do
 Anymore, black shoe
 In which I have like a foot
 for thirty years, poor and white
 Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.”

            She had even wanted to kill her father, though he had died before she actually got a chance to do so. She calls her father as a ‘Bag full of God’, which gives us an idea of her view regarding God, which is fearful just like a huge statue, who is enormous figure and has no heart beating now. The speaker then compares her father with the “Freakish” Atlantic Ocean. The word Freakish refers to something very unusual, and strange. Thus this implies that her father was a beautiful human being but there was something strange about him. At some points during his illness, she had even prayed for his recovery.

            Next, the speaker wonders about her father’s origin. He grew up in a Polish town, where he spoke in German language. The town that he grew up in had seen a lot of wars. But, she couldn’t recall the name of the town as it was a common one. For this reason, the speaker could never remember where her father actually came from. She could never gather the courage to ask him about it. She says that she felt as if her tongue had stuck in her jaw whenever she tried to talk to her father. This idea is contained in the following line:

“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 absence.”

            The speaker even says that she felt just like a Jew under the reign of the Germans. This is an important comparison to demonstrate the oppression that the speaker faced under her father’s guidance. It was an extremely painful experience, just like the Jews had faced at the hands of the Germans during the Holocaust. She felt like a Jew, being oppressed, without a voice. Hence she says that she could be related to the Jews and considered herself as one. She says that her ancestors were gypsies. Gypsies, just like the Jews were also oppressed by the Nazis.

            The speaker says that she was always afraid of her father. She believed that he had something to do with the German Air Force. He was a symbol of fear, with a neat mustache and bright blue eyes just like the German Nazis. She compares him with a German tank driver, as she calls him a ‘Ponzer man.’

            Then, the speaker compared her father to the symbol of “Swastika”. The Swastika is an ancient Indian symbol which was by the Nazis. Her father was a  huge black swastika that covered the entire sky blocking the light. Then she mockingly tells that every woman adores a Fascist, someone who is cruel and oppressive. Women for some reason, fall in love with ‘brutes’. Then, the speaker imagines her father standing in front of the blackboard. Her father was actually a professor.

            The speaker considers her father as the devil, he had a cleft in his chin, instead of his foot. His soul is dark, which makes him a ‘Black Ma’. She says that her father had torn her soul, and broken her heart. Even if he was a cruel brute, the poet had loved him as a child. Her father died when she was eight. She had cried for his death until she was twenty years old.

In her adulthood, she couldn’t continue to mourn for her father and ignored her vices. At one point, she even thought to kill herself in order to see him again. She tried committing suicide at twenty but was saved. However, her life changed completely after this incident.

            The speaker had created an imaginary model of her father who had a Meinkampf look, referring him to Hitler, the author of Meinkampf. The man she had married had perfectly recreated the role of her father, and she did not need to be reminded of her father. The speaker says that she had been accused of killing her father. However, she explains that he died before she could get the opportunity to do so. She says that if people think she has killed one man, she has actually killed two others, another one being her husband. She refers to her husband as a vampire because he had drained out life from her.

            In the last stanza, the poet says that even though her father died long ago, his memory has been haunting her just like a vampire. Thus, her father must be killed just like a vampire is killed, with a wooden stake pierced through his heart. In the ending lines, the poet says that although her father had been dead for multiple years, it was his memory that had been haunting her throughout these years. To prevent these things from happening, the speaker called him a “Bastar” and moved on.


Thus, “Daddy” is a poem that conveys fear, confusion, anger, and even sometimes hope. Although the speaker’s father died, when she was just eight, She married a man who resembled her father. Instead of erasing bad memories from her life, her husband added more misery to her life. Unlike a vampire, he drank her blood for seven years. It seems that the speaker has been caught in a vicious circle of male dominance.

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