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Sylvia Plath Vs. Daddy

March 01, 2005

You know, it's weird - for as often as I've read The Bell Jar, I really haven't read much of Sylvia Plath's poetry. "Daddy" is an interesting poem. The rhyme scheme pretty much focuses around the "oo" sound as in "you" , "do" , and "shoe." This is consistent throughout the whole of the poem. This poem is, duh, about Plath's father. I wondered though - how did her father die?

Sylvia Plath was born in Boston as the daughter of German immigrant parents. Her father was a professor of biology at Boston University, and had specialized in bees. He has been characterized as authoritarian and died of diabetes in 1940 when Plath was eight years old.

Sylvia Plath biography

In 1940 after suffering ill health for years, Otto was forced to see a doctor for an infection in his foot. The doctor diagnosed the illness Otto had been suffering from as not cancer, but diabetes--and now so advanced that it threatened his life. Otto's leg had to be amputated in October after he developed gangrene, and he spent the rest of his days in the hospital declining rapidly. Otto Plath died on the night of November 5, 1940, and when the eight-year-old Sylvia was informed of her father's death, she proclaimed "I'll never speak to God again."

Neurotic Poets

I'd like a more scholarly source for her biography, especially considering that one source said her father died of lung cancer not diabetes; however, I don't have the time to do *real* research right now. Anyone know anything about Sylvia Plath's background?

I did like in the 7th passage the feeling of a train from the text:

"An engine, an engine,
Chuffing me off like a Jew." etc.

I wonder, though, if this poem is really about Daddy or if it's more about her model of him:

"And then I know what to do
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look
And a love of the rack and the screw."

I took this to mean that Ms. Plath married a man who reminded her of her father - a man, who if you do end up reading the biographical data, didn't turn out to be such a nice man.

and... oooh! I didn't know that A) The Bell Jar was originally published under the psuedonym Victoria Lucas and B) that it was published only a month before she killed herself.

Moira at 09:22 AM :: Comments (2) :: ::
Comments:

Tragic from beginning to end. Plath didn't exactly get the "luck of the draw," did she? Hm. She seems very bitter about her heritage--even if you say that she married a "model" of her father. I question that because, why, with all the ill-perceived characteristics she provides, would she live with someone bearing those same qualities she loathes? Could this be similar to the fact that women who are beaten by husbands/boyfriends sometimes go back to them (stupidly) or end up in another abusive relationship? Just wondering.

On a literary poke, I concern myself with what was happening in the time period in which the poem was written--1963. What was society thinking surrounding religious issues and acceptance? The Holocaust was but a sigh behind the world in history, and Plath writes about Jews... (care to read my blog entry? :-) *insert shameless plug*)

Posted by: Karissa at March 1, 2005 06:23 PM

I was thinking that the marrying a model of her father thing was kind of an unconscious thing until she finally realized what she was doing ... hence the having to "kill" her father in order to stop repeating the same old patterns.

also, i think that the thing with abusive spouses probably does have something to do with this - it's almost as if we become most comfortable with what is familiar, even if what is familiar is not necessarily what is good for us.

Good point about examining the society during the time frame of this poem - that always seems to make a difference. I'll be sure to check out yer blog, lady!

Posted by: moira at March 1, 2005 06:30 PM
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