The poem "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath concludes with the symbolic scene of the speaker killing her vampire father. On an obvious level this represents Plath's struggle to deal with the haunting influence of her own father who died when she was a little girl. However, as Mary G. DeJong points out, "Now that Plath's work is better known, ‘Daddy' is generally recognized as more than a confession of her personal feelings towards her father" (34-35). In the context of the poem the scene's symbolism becomes ambiguous because mixed in with descriptions of the poet's father are clear references to her husband, who left her for another woman as "Daddy" was being written. The problem for the reader is to figure out what Plath is saying about the connection between the figures of father and husband by tying them together in her poem.
A clue lies in the final image she uses, the vampire. In today's movies and books vampires are portrayed as humans who have gained immortality and power in exchange for the need for blood and avoidance of sunlight and crosses. However, Plath wrote her poem in 1962, and since then our culture's image of the vampire has changed drastically. Historically, people who were transformed into vampires were no longer the same human beings. Instead, they became monsters who retained only the physical appearance of their former selves. Our interpretation of the poem is affected if we assume that when Plath wrote about a vampire she had in mind the older conception of a monster which took over the body of a now dead human. With this image in mind we will tend to look for ways the duality of father and husband in the poem correspond to the vampire's dual i...
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...the memory of her father's equally painful though unintentional abandonment. Despite the mixing of father and husband in the antagonist of "Daddy" it is obvious which man Sylvia Plath is addressing with the poem's last line, written during the breakup of her marriage and three months before her suicide: "Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through" (80). Works Cited
Cam, Heather. " ‘Daddy': Sylvia Plath's Debt to Anne Sexton." American Literature 59 (1987): 429-32.
DeJong, Mary G. "Sylvia Plath and Sheila Ballantyne's Imaginary Crimes." Studies in American Fiction 16 (1988): 27-38.
Ramazani, Jahan. " ‘Daddy I Have Had to Kill You': Plath, Rage, and the Modern Elegy." Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 108 (1993): 1142-56.
Srivastava, K.G. "Plath's Daddy." The Explicator 50 (1992): 126-28.
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