“Daddy” A Love Lost Essay
“Daddy” was written by poet Sylvia Plath who graduated summa cum laude Plath began her writing at the early age of 11 when she began to keep diaries after the passing of her father Otto Plath, who died from complications from surgery stemming from diabetes in 1940. “Daddy” is one of Plath’s poems written in 1962 about her father. In “Daddy” it is clear that the feelings and emotions Plath expresses for her father are unhealthy and possibly the relationship she had with him before his passing as well.
While analyzing “Daddy” through the lens of love I will attempt to describe Plath’s complex love she had for her father and the detrimental affect his passing had on the internal balance of her mental stability. In “Daddy” Plath describes both a soft and warming love for her father as well as a dark and frightening side. Plath suggests she both respected and feared her father, and both loved and hated him in more than one area in this writing. One example can be seen here, “Daddy, I have had to kill you. / You died before I had time-” (Lines 6-7).
She implies that she would’ve killed her father if he hadn’t died of other circumstances already, which suggests that she hated him or had some sort of malice toward him. Later she says “I used to pray to recover you. ” (14). To pray to recover someone after death suggest that you miss that person and want them back for whatever reason, whether it be for unfinished business, to speak words you didn’t have the chance to say or to even take back some things you might have said that may have been hurtful. In Plath’s case it could be many things.
I have even come to the idea that she may have wanted to recover her father so she could fulfill her earlier statement and kill him herself. An example of her fear can be seen best here, “I have always been scared of you, /With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo. ” (Lines 41-42). The word Luftwaffe is a German word for air force which suggests that Otto was possible a military man or that he was strict within his household to the extent of military practices. On the other hand the word gobbledygoo is not a word at all, it reminds me of a children’s’ word more so to describe a monster or fictional character like a ghost or goblin for instance.
In the biography “Bitter Fame- A Life of Sylvia Plath” by Anne Stevenson, Otto Plath is described as being a dominating force within his household. This can be seen here “If she wanted peace, she realized, she would have to submit to her husband’s rule, although, as she confesses, she was not naturally submissive. ” (Page 6). This quote is referring to Plath’s mother, Aurelia Plath, who was the daughter of Austrian immigrants; she held a Masters’ degree in both English and German from Boston University where she taught for a number of years.
Throughout this poem Plath speaks in German. This is in recognition of her father’s culture who was a German immigrant. According to Plath she could never speak to her father, “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. ” (Lines 24-30). Why couldn’t Plath speak to her father? Was it because she wasn’t fluent in his native language? Or maybe because she was scared of him. I gather that she was scared of him.
She says her tongue stuck in a barb wire snare, barb wire is extremely sharp and dangerous. If an actual tongue touched it, it would be torn to shreds. That suggest that she was just scared to let the words roll off her tongue in fear of what his response may have been. Also she repeatedly says ‘Ich’ which is German for “I”. One could assume by this the fear just took over her. She also suggest that her father may have sworn a lot and that he may have tarnished her image of Germans in the way that all Germans are mean just like you, and curse just like you by “ I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene. ” With the ‘language obscene’, it leads me to believe she could understand German if not being able to speak it fluently. If neither are the case, it seems to be clear that she could at the very least comprehend foul or obscene words that were spoken in her father’s native tongue. Since Plath was the first born child of her parents she was favored by her grandparents that she referred to as Grammy and Grampy as well as an uncle that was 13 years older than her.
Author Anne Stevenson mentions in her biography Bitter Fame- A life of Sylvia Plath, how Plath longed for perfection growing up and how she took pride in being the favorite child in the family by most of her relatives. “For most of her life Plath wanted to be accepted as “ordinary,” while at the same time conceiving of the ordinary in terms of unattainable perfection. ” So when in the summer of 1953 Plath did not get accepted into Harvard for summer writing classes it caused a devastating blow to her mental state. According to A celebration, this is sylviaplath. nfo. “She returned from the New York exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically. She was banking on being admitted to a Harvard summer class on writing.
When she received word she had not been accepted, Sylvia Plath’s fate was also secured. ” After this event Plath became very depressed according to this site. And this was the first notarized attempt at suicide. In “Daddy” Plath explains this attempt by saying, “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. (Lines 57-60). Essentially, I am stating that on top of the overwhelming stress with school she still had an underling, lingering, problem with her fathers’ passing that hadn’t been resolved. Plath stated “At twenty I tried to die/ And get back, back, back, to you. ” (58-59). I have gathered that her attempt at suicide was not just about school, and not just about being unable to attain perfection, but about her father as well. To try and commit suicide to get back to a person suggests love. In addition she says “I thought even the bones would do. ” (60).
It sounds as if even though she can’t be with her father in the flesh, or spiritually, then even bone to bone will suffice, her rotting corpse alongside his. However, her attempt at suicide was not successful due to the tremendous efforts of her mother. Referring back to Thisisplath. info, “On 24 August 1953, she left a note saying, “Have gone for a long walk. Will be home tomorrow. ” She took a blanket, a bottle of sleeping pills, a glass of water with her down the stairs to the cellar. There she crept into a two and a half-foot entrance to the crawl space underneath the screened-in porch.
She began swallowing the pills in gulps of water and fell unconscious. ” This event occurred shortly after the rejection into the writing program at Harvard. Again she was unsuccessful at this attempt due to the efforts of her mother. Plath’s mother Aurelia Plath only waited a short time to begin the search for her daughter after she discovered the note. She phoned the police and formed a group to search for her. She was found two days later in a crawl space located inside her mothers’ home. The fast response from her mother also implies that it was possible she knew her daughters mental state was in turmoil or she was unstable in some way.
With Plath being an adult at the time it would seem as if her mother wouldn’t have been so concerned to have immediately begin searching for her and calling the police in search of her adult child. In conclusion, Plath uses a lot of metaphors to describe her father and his personality as she saw it. Could it be that Plath is upset with herself for loving her father so much even in his death or does she hate him so much she can’t let him go? For example, “Every woman adores a Fascist, / The boot in the face, the brute/Brute heart of a brute like you” (Lines 48-50).
A fascist can be described as a dictator or controlling government. This is how she views her father but says that every woman adores this. She goes on to say a woman also loves the boot in the face and calls her father a brute and says he has a heart of a brute. This suggests she felt as if her father was a brute and she loved him anyway. In addition, Plath refers to her father a vampire as seen here 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 bastard, I’m through. (Lines 71-80). Plath says if she has killed one man then she has killed two but she never has killed anyone this is all in her head, perhaps this is something she would have liked to have done to her father and another man that she felt hurt her in some way.
She says he has a stake in his fat black heart, this goes back to him being a vampire, this how vampire killing is portrayed in books and television, this is the for sure way of death for them. So she can finally be a peace with his death and that is demonstrated with “ Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through” (80). This is her final good bye to her dad. He is dead and she is going to wipe him from her mind and move on now. However, Plath eventually succeeds with taking her own life at the age of thirty. She left behind a husband and two young children.
Was this a direct result of her trying to get back to her father? Was this due to her not being able to kill him from her memory like she had planned? Could it have been the second man she mentioned killing and compared to her father was her husband and she couldn’t bare living with him another day? The answer may never be known, the last pages of her final diary were destroyed after her suicide by her husband Ted Hughes.
Stevenson, Anne. Bitter Fame- A life of Sylvia Plath. Houghton Mifflin, 1989. Steinberg, Peter K. A Celebration, thisissylviaplath. net. 1998-2012 Web. 19 Nov. 2012