For Shame?

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"Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through" (244).

In Sylvia Plath's poem, Daddy, Plath describes both her own personal relationship with her estranged father and provides commentary on her feelings toward World War II-era Germany and Nazism. In The Seagull Reader Poems, the editor notes that because of these "references. . . to Nazi concentration camps" (237) most critics feel that Daddy "is a fictional apostrophe" (237) and not a truly personal work. I found this hard to believe and decided to look into Plath's lineage figuring that there had to be a reason for her references to Nazi Germany.

I found that Otto Plath, Sylvia's father, was not in fact a Nazi, but both of her parents were German immigrants (ancestry.com, Syliva Plath). So that leads me to believe that Plath was demonizing her father in Daddy who, according to her biography on www.poets.org, "had been a strict father, and both his authoritarian attitudes and his death drastically defined her relationships and her poems." I think that Sylvia felt somewhat oppressed by her strict father and that is why he is portrayed as a vicious Nazi in this poem. I plan on writing my close-reading paper on this same subject... so I will share more of my findings in class! 

3 Comments

Josie Rush said:

I always think it's interesting to see a poet's biography and find out what may have inspired their work. Check out Jessica's blog. She said she found an interview with Plath where she talked a bit about the driving force behind her poetry. That may help you with your paper.

Dianna Griffin said:

I actually did my close reading on Plath's poem, "Lady Lazarus," which you already know because you read it, but your blog has actually helped me to reevaluate some of the points that I have made in my paper (good thing I haven't turned the final copy in yet). I had thought that her father may have been a Nazi, but now that I realize that he wasn't I can change some of the points in my paper and make my arguments stronger. Thanks :).

Jessica Orlowski said:

Seriously... that interview is GOLD. Not only does it give the viewpoints of Plath when it comes to her works, but it also gives the viewpoints of her family and friends.

My blog is entitled "Fire and Rebirth." Check it out!!

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Jessica Orlowski on For Shame?: Seriously... that interview is
Dianna Griffin on For Shame?: I actually did my close readin
Josie Rush on For Shame?: I always think it's interestin