Preparing for Death in Sylvia Plath's Daddy

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Preparing for Death in Plath’s Daddy

Throughout the poem "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath, the author struggles to escape the memory of her father who died when she was only ten years old. She also expresses anger at her husband, Ted Hughes, who abandoned her for another woman. The confessional poem begins with a series of metaphors about Plath's father which progress from godlike to demonic. Near the end, a new metaphor emerges, when the author realizes that her estranged husband is actually the vampire of her dead father, sent to torture her. This hyperbole is central to the meaning of the poem. Lines 75-76 express a hope that they will stop oppressing her: "Daddy, you can lie back now / There ís a stake in your fat black heart." She concludes that her father can return to the grave, because she has finally rid herself of the strain he had caused her, by killing his vampire form. Despite this seeming closure, however, we will see that the author does not overcome her trauma.

Plath does not come out clearly as a feminist in this poem, but she does express feelings that many women can relate to. She probably did not hate all men or blame them all for her pain, as some have suggested. She simply had to deal emotionally with her adulterous husband and absent father, so she uses this poem to curse the two as co-conspirators in her misery. Nowhere in the poem does Plath negatively group all men together. She does say in line 48 that "Every woman adores a Fascist," trying to explain her early admiration for her German father. But that is not a sarcastic stab at men, as it may seem. Rather, she is referring to a destructive reality: brutal men do tend to attract women, especially those women who are looking for a strong man to compen...

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... on Sexton's "My Friend, My Friend" Sexton later said that she and Sylvia had "talked of death with burned-up intensity, both of us drawn to it like moths to an electric light bulb" (qtd. in Andrews).

Less than a week before her suicide, Plath wrote, "the woman is perfected" (qtd. in "Scenes"). In "Daddy," she was, in a sense, "perfecting" herself for death, but her desperate grasps at sanity ended in self-destruction. She proved herself that she could not be through with her problems. So, while the last line of this poem may seem like a statement of closure, it is better interpreted as a statement of capitulation. Plath was indeed through: She was through trying to overcome her distress, through loving her husband, through fighting with the memory of her father, and through living

Works Cited:

Plath, Sylvia. "Daddy." Collected Poems. London: Faber, 1981.
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