Plath’s Daddy Essays: Allegory in Plath’s Daddy

Plath’s Daddy Essays: Allegory in Plath’s Daddy

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Allegory in Plath’s Daddy  



In her poem "Daddy", Plath artfully intermixes the "factually" true with the "emotionally" true. There are scraps of her own life here, but the poem is much bigger than that, and goes beyond the face-value interpretation that is it nothing but a self-indulgent literary vengeance spree. Daddy works on both a biographical/personal level for Plath, but also on an allegorical level as well.

I see this poem as a dual testament to Plath's (and all women's) struggle against male power, authority, influence, etc. She never "had time" to define her feminine self in opposition to her father, in the context of this male relationship, or legitimately break free of it, because of his untimely death. She first resented his being emotionally absent in her life, and then physically absent. In her journals she admits how she struggles in her relationships with men because of this lack. Accounts by both Plath and Aurelia, assert that her father was quite the stereotypical authoritarian male, and although she loved him, she came to hate what he represented and how he had treated Aurelia and her. Many women of that time, (and all times) can understand this dynamic---loving men, but hating how they treat us and view us and exploit us--- consciously or unconsciously, on either a personal, or societal level.

Taken from this perspective, the Holocaust/victim analogy takes on a whole different slant. Rather than referring (exploitatively) to the personal sufferings of one individual woman, it can allegorically represent the mass, historical victimization of women by patriarchy, which has been well-documented (witch hysteria) and which continues (female circumscision) She says "every woman adores a Fascist in boots"--all women in some way participate (if only in their passivity, in refusing to reject the roles that society attempts to force upon them) in this social and cultural situation.

The child-voice of the poem can represent,on a deeper level, that innocence young girls lose as they become women and find themselves being "chuffed off like a Jew," often reluctantly or unknowingly, into the expected roles for women in marriage and childbearing---when fairy tale expectations of love crash into the reality of the Sisyphian tasks of dishes, cooking,cleaning,laundry, child care, when so many women have their dreams and identities erased under the daily grind of domesticity---a different sort of confinement, slavery, suppression, another and altogether different kind of death and destruction of the spirit.

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Remember Adlai Stevenson's speech at Plath's commencement?

I think that this poem is more than "voodoo." It explores the pain women feel in their various relations to and with men. It is the cry is an injured, abandoned daughter, but it also possesses the undersong cry of all women who have been abandoned emotionally or physically by the men they love. It is a personal rebellion against her father and Hughes, but it also rebels against society, against patriarchy, self-hatred, and women's silence.

 
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