March 1, 2005

Slap in the face

Jerz: Am Lit II (EL 267): Plath, ''Daddy''

If there was any poem that could bring out emotion in me it was "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath. It was like a slap in the face. You could tell that this person really hated someone. The imagery in this poem was amazing. Plath seemed to appeal to a person's heart more so than the mind, but you have to read it a couple times before you can pull some of the ideas from it.

To me the poem was about a person that was maybe concieved to a Jewish woman who was maybe raped by a German soldier or officer. I come by this conclusion because of the person's inconsistancy with whether he or she is or isn't saying "I think I may well be a Jew" and then later saying "I may be a bit of a Jew." I get the German referencing from the fact that she seems to hate everything that has to do with German and discribes her father as having a "neat mustache" and "Aryan eye, bright blue." These are classic symbols of a German officer.

Now let's take a look at the imagery.

And a head in the freakish Atlantic/ Where it pours bean green over blue/In the waters off the Nauset.

All I can picture here is some sort of aquatic animal, perhaps a dolphin, sticking its head out of the waves created by some ship. It suggests that the person is making a voyage from perhaps England to the US. We also get the idea that this person was taken away to a concentration camp of some kind on a train because of the references to the major camps of the time period.

I just don't know what else to say other than this poem really threw me into reality. My heart beats a little bit faster every time I read it. The words just throw you into Germany. Things like "swastika" and "Fascist". I just can not imagine what it would be like to live during this time. The fear, the hatred, the utter disgust. Even thinking about it as I type makes me want to cry. I can honestly say that this poem scared the heck out of me.


Posted by Tiffany Brattina at March 1, 2005 10:08 PM

I agree with you on this reading. It did get to my heart, it seems to build up strong hatred aimed at someone. I had similar thoughts about this poem. The Dachau was one of the first gas chambers, if not the first one, opened under hitler. Hitler became Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. The Dachau Concentration Camp officially opened on Wednesday, March 22, 1933, six weeks later.

Posted by: Scott Clark at March 1, 2005 11:24 PM

Hey now, no crying over homework, Tiff... :-)

I can understand that you were bothered by the poem; I'll declare that it is not my favorite... But I really don't think that it's about a German soldier at all. *politely disagreeing*

I thought that it really was about her father--that her father was not good to her, that they didn't have any sort of substantial relationship, that she clearly didn't want to have anything to do with her father.

Moira brings up some great points in her entry--go check it out. Also, Gina Burgese and I had discussed most of the poems verbally in the computer lab last night while we blogged... You might want to look at their perspectives, too. I didn't do a long entry on this poem, but I don't really think that it's about the Holocaust. Despite the fact that it makes references to the German language, Aryan characteristics, and even "Meinkampf" the poem was written in 1963, so I honestly think that unless it was an exploration of the history at the time, it's not about the Holocaust.

Posted by: Karissa at March 2, 2005 12:00 AM

Karissa ~

I could be that this person found out about her father later in her life. She did not necessarily have to know who her real father was. I know that a friend of mine has lived for 25 years thinking her father was one person when really it was another. Life takes people in many different directions. This is what makes poetry so fun to look at. The differences between what people believe to be true and what the author intended to be true are often two very very different things. Therein lies why we discuss them.

Posted by: Tiffany at March 2, 2005 8:39 AM

I agree with Karissa - I don't see this as about a German soldier either... I did some research on Sylvia Plath's background and found that her father was of a German background and died when she was nine - I posted about that here:

Posted by: moira at March 2, 2005 4:45 PM

Thanks for the back-up, Moira.

Tiffany, I think poetry is definetly open to discussion. We can never truly know what the author had in mind unless s/he comes right out and tells us in an analysis or anthology or otherwise...

I appreciate that you've taken my viewpoint into consideration--and I can sort of see with the clues you've noted how you can ellicit the vision of a German soldier. I still think that Plath knew her father: the very first stanza, line 3-4 says, "In which I have lived like a foot| For thirty years, poor and white..." Later, in stanza six, line 4 Plath says "I thought every German was you." Stanza 9 in the first line: "I have always been scared of you..."

I tend to think that with these descriptions that there was a relationship, although not a good one. I recognize your presented situation of not knowing a father, but thinking that you "know" a person that people tell you about... I somehow don't think that is the case in this poem, either. Call me Devil's Advocate in this case, if you'd like :-)

Posted by: Karissa at March 2, 2005 9:01 PM

Just because she thought every German was him doesn't mean that she knew him. She could have been told that her father was a German, or seen a picture of him, and therefore was looking for a person that fit the description. That also constitutes the thinking that she could be scared of him because of the picture or the discription that was given to her.

I understand that you are playing Devil's Advocate, but at the same time I have to back myself up. I think what we are seeing here is two completely different viewpoints on the way a poem can be taken.

Posted by: Tiffany at March 2, 2005 10:04 PM

Yep--two viewpoints of the same story in the same poem. I love perspective, don't you? :-) Way to make conversation, Tiff!

Posted by: Karissa at March 3, 2005 11:35 AM
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