Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy”
Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” is a brilliant poem about the relationship of a daughter and a father. It is also a poem of female yieldings and revolt in the world of men who are responsible for sufferings of women and all the disasters in the world. According to Sylvia Plath, masculine priorities subdued and oppressed women in society as she clearly depicted in this poem.
The speaker’s father, her husband, teacher, Gestapo officer, vampire, and the statue are the male characters that she considers as they are created as oppressive and leading. Her father seems as a powerful, restrictive, and strong, god-like figure. The speaker of the poem is the female character that is restrained and is not allowed to lead her life independently. It is clearly presented in the lines of the poem that describes her father as a black shoe and herself “in which I have lived like a foot Barely daring to breathe or Achoo” (3 – 5). She is not allowed to breathe freely that she is unable to live her life. When the female character realized this oppression by man, she wanted to revolt against their power that stopped her from living her life. She compared her father to a Nazi and herself to a Jew, because she considered herself being oppressed by the male characters of her life. As Nazis violated and exploited Jews, men are exploiting and violating the life of women. Sylvia depicted the stereotype of women who love scurrilous, strong men by using irony to express the difference in the men and women relationships. Thus she says, “Every woman adores a fascist” (48).
The subordinate role of women is clearly presented by the speaker while trying to articulate the “ich, ich, ich, ich” (27). This is the best example for refusing women by silencing them through their power. “Daddy” describes the power of men that has the ability to dominate women. As a sadomasochistic image, women have to be responsible for whatever they do additionally. The sense of suffocation spreads throughout the poem. The narrator showers all her hatred for her father and husband and for all the men. Sylvia Plath tries to criticize the aggressiveness of men and depicts men as they are responsible for all the disasters.
The poem clearly presents the common and dominant ideology regarding the men and women relationship. Men are made to give instructions and women are made to be instructed. This attitude of male society is revealed in the poem when the narrator tells her father to “stand at the blackboard.” In the men’s world, women are often considered as emotional by nature. However, men are considered as rational because they are strong enough to kill thousands and thousands without bothering. Thus, the speaker feels the relationships between men and women seem unjust and sees the male characters as devils and vampires who “drank my blood for a year” (73). Men are compared to vampire and devils because they are responsible for all her suffering and fateful life.
This poem explores men and women relationship in general and not to point out a particular person. The poem was written during a period when women started raising voice against the atrocities of men and fought for their rights. Women created big progress to show the gender unjust in the society. Though “Daddy” does not deal feminism obviously, it presents the powerful argument against the male chauvinistic world. The speaker does not address one particular man, but everyone that has betrayed, suppressed, or died that makes the life of his wife and daughter suffer.
Women have to stay at home safely and take care of their children. This ultimate goal is to shut the freedom of women in the home. It is difficult for women to show much attention to their work, as they have to do several duties at a time as a mother, daughter, and wife. They were often disdained and marginalized. This poem portrayed the life of women and the desolation of the domestic atmosphere, the desperation over husband’s unfaithfulness, the disappointment of pregnancy, fateful life with father, and efforts to search their own originality among the dominant nature of the patriarchal society. Most imposingly, the poem remains artistic and poetic behind all the harsh words and attacks toward male society.
“Daddy” is full of imagery that supports the narrator to express her enmity toward her father and husband and other men in her life, as she feels they are the people “who bit my pretty red heart in two” (61). Imageries help the poem to present the atrocities of men and their domination over women. Women struggle all their life to defeat the victimizers whose only intention is to victimize women in one way or other. This poem depicts that women do not have appropriate tools to struggle with the controlling oppressing male dominants. Such women feel hopeless and helpless. For a few women, their struggle is never settled. They had to struggle all through their life and die without resolving the struggle.
The narrator presents her feelings of oppression and her struggle to live in this gender-biased society. It also speaks about suffering of women overall in a male chauvinistic society. The poem deals with the conflict between power of men and their control versus female rights that allow her make choices, to be herself, and be free from domination of male society. The narrator’s conflicts start in her relationship with her father and continue with her husband and other male members in her life. The strength of her conflict is evident as the speaker uses instances and examples that cannot be refused or ignored.
The speaker hold imagery for a support to express her anguish and enmity toward her father and husband and other men in her life. She added clear imagery, incorporated changes that happen within her, and used the language that transforms the emotion of the poem as it moved on. She hates her father that makes her toscold her father as “bastard.” She uses her father’s “black Shoe” as imagery and starts the journey by depicting the pain and anguish she felt from the presence of men. She further portrays him as a great statue because she considered her father as a god when he died. She even compares her father as German Nazi and considers herself as a Jew. Through images, the speaker arouses the tension and anger. Along with the rhyme, her unique images moved on.
This poem not only explores about relationship and life with father and husband, but also about the general relationships of women and men. Although it appears that the poem has reached a resolution, this is not true while considering the real life of women. The poem is really a helpful tool for women to take resolution to win men and free from the clutches of men. Through the voice of narrator, the poem conveys the strong feelings of women for their fateful with their male relations and male chauvinistic society. The poem is striking, spectacular, dramatic, and emotional that induces sympathy for the victim. The struggle throughout the life of women is obvious through the intense use of language and images. By presenting the narrator’s personal experience or feeling in her poem, Sylvia Plath made a magnificent attempt to present the relationships of men and women and women’s fateful life in the male dominated society.
Plath, Sylvia. The Collected Poems. New York: Harper & Row, 1981. Print.