Revenge and Hatred in Sylvia Plath's Daddy

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Revenge and Hatred in Plath's Daddy

The power of Plath's Daddy to threaten, shock and move the reader remains undiminished, years after it was written. To the unsuspecting reader, the experience of first reading "Daddy" is a confusion of discomfort, excitement and guilty pleasure, for the pleasures of revenge are said to be sweet, and this is a revenge poem of the first rank. Revenge upon whom? Father? Perhaps, more likely, upon her husband. And her aim was true, for if anything Plath wrote damaged Ted Hughes for posterity, "Daddy" is it. From this poem, we gather our indelible impressions of Hughes as a brute, a wife beater, a vampire, even an implied racist and murderer (if we extend the Hitler metaphor to its fullest implications) . . . on and on.

The controversial Holocaust imagery can be directly linked to the period in which the poem was written. In 1961, the entire world was riveted by the Jerusalem trial of Nazi SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolph Eichmann (who was executed in 1962, a few months before "Daddy" was written). This was the first televised trial in history, an...
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