The impact the Holocaust had on literary works is quite evident during the early twentieth century. The gruesome actions the Nazis inflicted on the Jews was questioned and brought into light when the several Nazis that participated in those acts were put on trial. According to Biography.com, the trial of Adolf Eichmann was broadcasted to the world a few months before this poem was written on October 12, 1962. The poem “Daddy,” written by Sylvia Plath, uses dark imagery and references Nazis and Holocaustic imagery.
Plath occasionally uses German words and phrases and hinted the narrator being of Jewish descent. This work was also written during a time when the feminist movement was taking flight. Women were fighting to find their independence and equality in a world that still viewed them as disposable objects. Feminist biography shifts, to show how women have battled to author their own lives, during the 1950s to 2000s time period according to an article written by Carl Rollyson.
The speaker and the author of this poem were both taking part in this battle to write the story of their lives. The feminist movement relates to this poem in how the daughter, the speaker, was on a personal mental journey to find herself and unlink from the man that helped raise her. This poem uses surreal imagery, extended metaphors, and drastic allusions to describe the relationship the narrator had with her father and her pursuit to release herself from the baggage and pain her father caused.
The speaker of this poem had many similarities to Sylvia Plath. The father of the speaker is said to be of German descendant which the reader can conclude with the various insertions of German phrases. Sylvia Plath’s father was a German immigrant who died when she was eight. Plath had an encounter with death when she tried to take her own life, and she had a draining relationship with her husband of seven years that later led them to separate four months before this poem was written. The speaker of this work described her relationship with her husband as a vampire who said he was you /And drank my blood for a year, / Seven years if you want to know. (lines 71- 74) The person, the speaker, was describing drained her physically and took away her life source, blood. A vampire drinking off someone’s blood can be compared to a leech latching on to its host to receive all the nutrients while leaving the giver depleted. The extended metaphor between the husband of the poem and Sylvia Plath’s husband and life is uncanny and requires some recognition. This thought is supported by Lant in an article named The big strip tease: female bodies and male power in the poetry of Sylvia Plath which states, Plath’s poet husband with whom she had a troubled and stormy relationship is quick to assert that her work is highly bound up with very personal content. Many of Plaths poems, including this one, includes personal elements of her life intertwined with a new persona. This speakers dad died at a different age; however, one can conclude the impact of his death was the same.
The poem begins off by stating the daughter is free from the memory of her father. She says that “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.” (lines 1-5) The first three lines describe her newfound freedom from the restraint her father had on her. She no longer felt suffocated or “barely daring to breathe” (line 5) when it came to her paternal figure. The metaphor in lines 2-3 compares the father to a form-fitting shoe that has no space to breathe. Her father, being compared to a shoe, represents her constantly feeling stepped and trampled on. She was always on guard, stopping herself from sudden movements like sneezing or even breathing. The imagery of the color of black and white in lines 2-4 contrast each other and represents the two different spectrums these two were. The speaker and her father never truly understood each other, which lead the blackness of the shoe, her father, to overpower the whiteness of the speaker.
The appearance of Nazi vs. Jews allusions and imagery begin to appear halfway through the poem. Plath’s describes the pair as complete opposites, and the drastic comparison between the two shows how strained and painful their relationship was. The speaker states that she “may be a bit of a Jew” (line 40) and that she “has always been scared of you, With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo. And your neat mustache (line 41-42). The imagery of a classic Nazi solider and the speaker being a Jew descendent explains how complicated and unlikely the relationship working out was. This imagery conveys her father being the death of her with him being the Nazi and her being of Jewish descendant. However, with all the constrained relationship they had, she still felt a tie and connection towards her paternal figure. At twenty I tried to die And get back, back, back to you. I thought even the bones would do.” (line 5760) The speaker still admires her father and tried anything to get reunited with him. This line the attachment she had to him to the point where she decided to take her own life to be in his presence. The speaker is very desperate to be back with her father that she tries to settle with just being with his bones. This connection represents the attachment, entrapment, and loyalty many women during that time had to an authoritative male figure. Even though the relationship between the speaker and her father was not the best, she was still longing to be with him even in death.
The last few stanzas make a 360 back to the beginning of the poem and describe her recently discovered freedom from her father. The speaker is done with dealing with her father’s baggage and finally, let’s go of the rope that tied the two of them together. The speaker tells her, “Daddy, you can lie back now” (line 75) in his grave. She is permitting him to go back to the land of the dead while she stays with the land of the living. She is letting go of the tie she has with her father and is trying to go her separate way. Plath finally ends off the poem with the speaker revealing the view others had for her father. She says, “the villagers never liked you. They are dancing and stamping on you” (lines 76- 77). The village view of her father does not differ from her picture of her father at the end of the poem, which shows what type of man the speaker’s father was. Plath ends of the poetry by stating the speaker is done with her father. She does with the repetition of Daddy twice in the last line. The speaker states, “Daddy, daddy, you bastard, Im through.” (line 78) This was the final acknowledgment of letting the memory of her father go. She lets go of the hold he had over her, and the attachment she had for her father fizzles away. She is through with the everything he put her through and most importantly she is through with him.