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Critical Analysis of Sylvia Plath’s Daddy

Critical Analysis of Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy”

Sylvia Plath uses her poem, “Daddy”, to express intense emotions towards her father’s life and death and her disastrous relationship with her husband. The speaker in this poem is Sylvia Plath who has lost her father at age ten, at a time when she still adored him unconditionally. Then she gradually realizes the oppressing dominance of her father, and compares him to a Nazi, a devil, and a vampire. Later, the conflict of this relationship continues with her husband which led to a short and painful marriage. In “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath, the author illustrates her feelings of anger and resentment towards her father and husband along with being oppressed for most of her life through her poetic devices of vivid metaphor, imagery, rhyme, tone, and simile.

Metaphor plays a major role in this poem because strong metaphors are conveyed throughout the poem though shoes and feet are a recurrent image in this poem; they take on different nuances of meaning as the poem proceeds. In line two, the speaker compares herself to a foot that “lives” in a shoe, the shoe is her father. Analyzing this metaphor on an abstract level is much less helpful than visualizing it. Then the metaphor evokes various helpful associations: Commonly, a shoe protects the foot and keeps it warm, in this poem. However, the shoe is a trap, smothering the foot. The adjective “black” suggests the idea of death, and since the shoe is fitting tightly around the foot, one might think of a corpse in a coffin. Plath thus feels at the same time protected and smothered by her father. Later, the black shoe emerges as a military “boot” (line 49) when the father is called a Nazi.

The image of the poem helps the reader to relate to Plath’s harsh life. An example of this is when the devil is introduced with “A cleft in your chin instead of your foot/But no less a devil for that”. (53-54). Again there is the reference to the foot, this one being suspicious just like the origins of the father. The cleft in the foot, the devil’s hooves, is compared to the cleft in the father’s chin. This is developed further with the images of the father and the husband who...

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