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Daddy-A cry for Help

Updated on July 6, 2016
Lisawilliamsj profile image

Lisa is a substitute teacher who studies English Literature. She lives to write and is following her dream of becoming a professor.

The poem Daddy, by Sylvia Plath, is a poem about a woman who just wants to break free of her oppressive past. Her father mistreats her when she is young, and dies before she formally can erase his memory. She is a child, left with a daddy complex, and a void to fill, so she seeks out the only kind of love that she knows. She finds herself a husband reminiscent of her father, and the cycle of abuse begins again. In this poem Sylvia Plath tries to “kill” the memory of the oppressive men in her life. Unfortunately, she never succeeds. It seems that this poem could have very well been more than a Literary Masterpiece; it could have also been a cry for help.

When I first read this poem I was taken aback. I was overcome with emotion, and wanted to read it again. The poem reads as liberating; it seems as if the writer has made a breakthrough, and is ready to start anew. When she writes, “You do not do, you do not do any more, black shoe,” (Barnet, Burto, & Cain (2014), p. 542), and “Daddy, daddy, you bastard I’m through” (Barnet, et el (2014), p. 544), she appears to have realized finally that she can break free. Unfortunately, it looks as if the writer never could break free; this results in her eventually taking her own life. It seems that, in the end, no one was there to “pull her out of the sack and stick her back together with glue” (Barnet, et el (2014), p. 544).


This is a beautiful poem full of anger, sadness, and pain. As I read this poem, I asked myself, who is speaking? I have come to the conclusion that the speaker in Daddy is, indeed, Sylvia Plath, herself. This is a poem about a woman who is trying hard to relinquish horrible memories. She writes that by the age of 10, her father, “bit her pretty red heart in two” (Barnet, et el (2014), p. 542). This is a telling line that sums up the whole poem. His death creates a void in her life. He dies before she can find closure.

In the poem Daddy, Sylvia Plath uses imagery to express the oppression that she has felt, in her life. The figurative language, metaphors, and similes produce disturbing imagery. This imagery ties the poem together nicely, and allows the reader to feel the emotion, behind the words. One example of a metaphor in this poem is the comparison of her father to a Nazi, and herself to a Jew. She goes on to say that she found, and married, a man just like her father. She refers to him as “the vampire who said he was you” (Barnet, et el (2014), p. 542). In addition, She uses figurative language when she says her husband, “drank her blood for a year” (Barnet, et el (2014), p. 54). What she is really saying here is, her husband sucks the tiny bit of spirit that she has left, out of her, and leaves her void of emotion.

In the very first stanza, she writes that she has lived her whole life “in a black shoe, in which she has lived like a foot” (Barnet, et el (2014), p. 542). This brings to mind a vision of a foot, stuffed into a tight pair of shoes, after a long day of work, yearning to get released from the pressure. The second example of imagery is very poignant; it brings to mind a terrible time in the history of the world. When she writes, “An engine, an engine shuffling me off like a Jew” (Barnet, et el (2014), p. 542), One cannot help but to think of the long lines of people, waiting to get aboard trains, to live in agony in a concentration camp; or lose their lives in gas chambers. One could discern from this line, that the speaker in the poem has lived a life of fear, stemming from her abusive father, which was exasperated by her domineering husband.


Accordingly, the meaning that I get out of this poem, is simply that the author suffered for years, in a cycle of abuse. She went from an abusive father, to an abusive husband. When she states, “I made a model of you,” (Barnet, et el (2014), p. 544), she is saying that she went in search of an oppressive spouse because that was the only kind of love that was familiar to her. I cannot help, but to feel sadness, even as I am analyzing this poem. This is a heartbreaking reality, this woman lived each and every day. She suffers from mistreatment her whole life, and at times is liberated “I have killed one man, I have killed two” ” (Barnet, et el (2014), p. 542), but if one looks at what happens in the end, it becomes apparent that she killed no man, their memory killed her.

This poem uses many poetic devices, to help the reader understand the pain behind the words. The meter and rhyme of this poem make it easy to read. The poem reads like a beautiful song. The repetitions of words give the poem tempo and the rhymes give it rhythm, which is definitely evident when the poem is read aloud. In addition, the sporadic use of German words throughout the poem, gives the poem a certain distinction. The word- choice used throughout is, superb and enchanting.

The writer uses allusion when describing her father. When she writes about the fear she has always had of her father, she discusses his “neat mustache and Aryan eyes, bright blue” (Barnet, et el (2014), p. 542). She expects the reader to relate her father to the Nazi party. She goes on to say “Not God, but a swastika” (Barnet, et el (2014), p. 542), when referring to her father; this alleviates any doubt the reader may have.


In addition, there is definite irony, apparent in this poem. When she writes “Every woman adores a fascist, the boot in the face, the brute” (Barnet, et el (2014), p. 542), it is ironic because the only woman who would put up with the mistreatment a fascist would hand out, would be one that grew up with that kind of abuse. Most women do not enjoy being ruled with an iron fist.

In conclusion, Sylvia Plath’s, Daddy is a beautiful and well written poem. It is evident throughout the poem that it is written by someone who has suffered many cruelties in life. The voice in the poem, seems to be coming to a point in her life where she can let go of her past. It is unfortunate for everyone that the author could not seem to obtain the same freedom in which she writes. Maybe, if someone close to her looked deeper into the meaning of this poem after it was written, she would have been able to get the help she needed.


Barnet, S., Burto, W., & Cain, W. (2014). Literature for composition: An Introduction to literature (10th ed.). New York, New York: longman.


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    • Lisawilliamsj profile image

      Lisa Chronister 3 years ago from Florida

      Dream on, Thank you! I thoroughly enjoyed writing this. It made me sad, because I saw bits of myself throughout the poem, but it also made me determined to not have the same outcome as the author..I truly think that writing this paper was a turning point for me! Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and comment!

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 3 years ago

      I was moved by the way you explained Sylvia Plath's life. Her poem was chilling and sad. Thank you for sharing.

    • Lisawilliamsj profile image

      Lisa Chronister 4 years ago from Florida

      Thank you Frank! I did, indeed write this for a class! I am trying to get myself back into writing again, so I thought that academic pieces would be a great start. Thank you for taking the time to stop by!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      a very well put together Academic hub here..