Probably the most important Plath poem. Basically suitable for every question.
Death versus rebirth, freedom vs confinement, ambivalence, fear, mental instability/grief, war between the two genders
- War imagery - Used to highlight the speaker's personal feelings of persecution at the hand of the male population. Unequivocally sees self as a victim, shown through the use of powerful, and controversial, war images, including references to the holocaust.
- Shoe imagery - Plath's father lost his leg after he was identified as having an advanced stage of diabetes and his foot became infected with gangrene. Many assume that the confessional poet Plath wrote this particular poem about her own 'relationship' with her father, which would explain the repeated references to feet throughout 'Daddy', "one gray toe" in particular. The shoe imagery symbolises suppression of thoughts, terrified of allowing herself to think about her father for fear of what it will do to her mentally. The fact that she has "lived" in this shoe "for thirty years" accentuates just how trapped Sylvia felt by the memory of her father.
- Vampire imagery - Villainous creature, takes the appearance of human form and feeds off others life force. Plath uses this extended metaphor towards the last two stanzas to make the reader appreciate just how difficult it is for her to rid herself of the evil that is the memory of her father. He's dead, and yet he is still haunting her from beyond the grave, in the form of her husband ("I made a model of you [...] I said I do, I do") and also the memory she has of him.
- Communication imagery - Plath has real difficulties with communicating in 'Daddy', both because she found it impossible to talk to him when he was alive for her fear of him and physically impossible because of his death. The entire poem is an apostrophe, or rather, an exclamatory speech written to a dead person. She uses repetitive onomatopoeia ("Ich, ich, ich, ich") to express her inability to talk to her father. When she went to talk to him, she ended up stammering instead, her throat seeming to close in an egocentric fashion ("Ich" means "I").
- Size imagery - Plath draws attention to how big of an impact her father had on her, as well of his towering physical size compared to Plath as a child, by comparing him to a statue that stretches over America.
- Adult nursery rhyme - Plath uses rhyme along with childish language to create a sort of twisted, children's nursery rhyme structure, juxtaposing this with complex, adult content and most notably, a use of profanity. The poet cleverly employs this technique to make the content more shocking to the reader than it would have been written in a more adult structure.
- Repetition of "wars" - Creates a slow sound, as well as emphasising the destruction that her father's death has had on her.
- Use of German words - Draws attention to the difficulty Plath and her father had communicating. In her mind, her father spoke German, whilst she spoke a made-up, childish language, shown by the balanced juxtaposition of "your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo"
- Use of colours - Black to describe father's heart (to represent his emotional absence) and red to describe her heart (a colour that Plath always associated with life and creativity). She uses gray to describe her father's decomposing toe and blue as a reference to Hitler's ideal race.
Top 10 quotes
- Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.
- Barely daring to breathe or achoo (and/or) I have always been scared of you,/ With your luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo
- It stuck in a barb wire snare/Ich, ich, ich, ich
- At twenty I tried to try/And get back, back, back to you./I thought even bones would do.
- The brute/ Brute heart of a brute like you
- Not God but a swastika/So black no sky could squeak through
- Every woman adores a Fascist
- Bit my pretty red heart in two
- The black telephone's off tat the root,/The voices just can't worm through.
- One gray toe/Big as a Frisco seal