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The Shock of Sylvia Plath’s Daddy

The Shock of Plath’s Daddy

“Daddy” is one of the most highly anthologized poems of Plath’s (along with “Lady Lazarus”). It is a notorious poem, the one once compared to “Guernica” by George Steiner. The imagery and audaciousness of it still shock, so much so that I don’t even know if it is being taught or anthologized or taught any more; it is almost as if the critical world has had its say on it and has moved on, either to other poems in Ariel, or to other books altogether, such as The Colossus or Crossing The Water. It has become a modern classic, of a kind, the sort some people (not the ones here, of course!) sigh

Plath’s Daddy Essays: Loss and Trauma

Loss and Trauma in Plath’s Daddy

In addition to the anger and violence, ‘Daddy’ is also pervaded by a strong sense of loss and trauma. The repeated ‘You do not do’ of the first sentence suggests a speaker that is still battling a truth she only recently has been forced to accept. After all, this is the same persona who in an earlier poem spends her hours attempting to reconstruct the broken pieces of her ‘colossus’ father. After 30 years of labor she admits to being ‘none the wiser’ and ‘married to shadow’, but she remains faithful to her calling. With ‘Daddy’ not only is the futility of her former efforts acknowledged, but the conditions that forced them upon her are manically denounced. At the same time, and this seems to fire her fury, she admits to her own willing self-deception. The father whom she previously related to the ‘Oresteia’ and the ‘Roman Forum’ is now revealed as a panzer man with a Meinkampf look. But she doesn’t simply stop at her own complicity. ‘Every woman,’ she announces ‘loves a Fascist/The boot in the face, the brute/Brute heart of …

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