Daddy Issues

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I decided I would join the hordes of readers rushing towards Sylvia Plath's poem, "Daddy."  Why the mad dash?  It's clear Hallmark wasn't going to be in touch with Plath about their father's day cards.  However, what Plath lacks in literary paternal loyalty, she makes up for in the desperate honesty she managed to maintain through tireless self-scrutiny.  It's this bare reflection that helps readers relate to Plath, even if they are ignorant of the specific biographical points of her life that help unlock some of the imagery behind her verse.

"Daddy, I have had to kill you,

You died before I had time." (6-7)

The reason these lines have the ability to shock a reader isn't simply because of the casual mention of patricide.  Here Plath reveals that even though her father died when she was young (in line 57 she says she was ten when they buried him), she carried her hatred of him into adulthood.  He may not have lived long enough for her to kill him, but he managed enough years for her to hate him.  The implications of these lines, naturally, make the reader wonder what in the world went on with Plath and her "Daddy." 

Plath also unlocks other means to convey her loathing.  Aside from calling her father a Nazi (well, more accurately, the Nazi.  She does make a few references to Hitler), and accusing him of "[biting] my pretty red heart in two," Plath displays expert control over the sounds of her words.  Notice that Plath makes use of words like "do," "you," "shoe," "achoo".... All of these words force the mouth into an almost disgusted grimace, which further exemplifies Plath's relationship with her father, and later on in the poem, her husband.    

 

 

 

7 Comments

Aja Hannah said:

Plath also may have hated him though because she loved him, wanted to get to know him, and he had no time for her. Then, in a way, he abandoned her forever. Perhaps the poem expresses how much she hates herself for feeling this way and masks it with how much she "hates" her father.

Melissa Schwenk said:

Nice call on the word usage. I hadn't noticed that at all. I think it's those little things that Plath puts into her poetry that makes the reader see how much she really hated her father more than just a simple poem about deep never ending hatred otherwise would show. Then again, the fact that she took all this time to write a poem about such hatred illustrates right away how it still preys on her mind, and her unwillingness to get over such hatred despite the last line of the poem stating the contrary.

Jessica Orlowski said:

Personally, I loved this poem and her word usage. The main question I have about line 6 is Plath's use of tense- "... HAVE HAD to kill you." Why not "I HAVE to kill you?" This may be a dumb question, but obviously I'm missing something lol.

As for your blog, 1) Thank you for using the word patricide 2) This poem was rather straightforward and bare in its structure.

When I read this poem, I noticed a lot of references to "black." Any thoughts?

Josie Rush said:

Aja, I think that you're right, she did feel abandoned by him, she says something to the effect that she used to look for him and she wanted to get back to him "even the bones would do." But I also think that that's mixed with some more adult wisdom (there's no more of that childhood awe that makes one think her parents are perfect), and she's sees he was, in her words, "a bastard." It's definitely possible for her to hate her father and herself, and still kind of miss her father, all at the same time. Our capacity for emotion is a great tool for poetry.
Melissa, I definitely thought that it still preyed on her mind, too. That last line screams desperatness to me, like she's dying to be through with him, and saying she is will make it so.

Josie Rush said:

Jessica- I didn't mean to ignore you in my last comment! For some reason I'm not seeing all the comments when I respond...It's kind of annoying. Anyway.
"I have had to kill you" I think she's just saying this is something that's been going on for a while, but he keeps returning. This backs up Melissa's thought that her father still preys on her mind a lot. Of course, another way to look at it, the tense still works as though she is talking to her father beyond the grave (which, I guess she is). It's like she's explaining to him, "Daddy, I have had to kill you."
The "black" references I thought were just to expand on the fact that he's evil...black heart, and all that. I could not be looking deep enough, though. Any other thoughts on that?
Oh, and anyone who has the time and inclination should do a YouTube search of Sylvia Plath reading Daddy. It's absolutely chilling. I'll post a link when I have a second, but in the meantime, I really suggest it.

I think the line about her having had to kill him meant that even though he's dead, she wants to kill her memory of him. He died before she was able to kill him, both literally and figuratively.

Jessica Orlowski said:

Josie- "Black" could indicate a contrast between she and her father. She DOES refer to herself as "poor and white" (line 4). Maybe she feels as if she dosen't fit in?

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Jessica Orlowski on Daddy Issues: Josie- "Black" could indicate
Karyssa Blair on Daddy Issues: I think the line about her hav
Josie Rush on Daddy Issues: Jessica- I didn't mean to igno
Josie Rush on Daddy Issues: Aja, I think that you're right
Jessica Orlowski on Daddy Issues: Personally, I loved this poem
Melissa Schwenk on Daddy Issues: Nice call on the word usage. I
Aja Hannah on Daddy Issues: Plath also may have hated him