Critical Analysis of Daddy by Sylvia Plath Essay Sample

8 August 2017

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The first 12 stanzas of the verse form uncover the extent of the speaker’s ownership by what. in psychoanalytic footings. is the imago of the father—a childhood version of the male parent which persists into maturity. This imago is an merger of existent experience and archetypical memories wherein the speaker’s ain psychic subjugation is represented in the more general symbol of the Nazi subjugation of the Jews. For illustration. the adult male at the chalkboard in the image of the existent male parent is transformed symbolically into the “man in black with a Meinkampf expression. ” The connecting nexus. of class. between each of these associations is the word “black. ” which besides relates to the shoe in which the talker has lived and the swastika “So black no sky could whine through. ” Therefore the particular and personal remembrances ignite powerful associations with culturally important symbols. The fact that the miss is herself “a spot of a Jew” and a spot of a German intensifies her emotional palsy before the imago of an Aryan male parent with whom she is both affiliated and at hostility.

Commenting on the character in a BBC interview. Plath herself suggests that the two strains of Nazi and Jew unite in the girl “and paralyze each other” so the miss is double incapacitated to cover with her sense of her male parent. both by virtuousness of her assorted ethnicity and her infantile position. As the character recalls the male parent of her early old ages. she emphasizes and blends the two positions of powerlessness: that of the kid before its male parent and of the Jew before the Nazi. The child’s bullying is clear. for illustration. in “I ne’er could speak to you. / The lingua stuck in my Jaw” ; but the sense of the childhood panic melds into a suggestion of the Judaic persecution and panic with the following line: “It stuck in a shot wire trap. ”

What Plath accomplishes by the more or less chronological sequencing of these remembrances of childhood. and on through the 20 twelvemonth old’s attempted self-destruction to the point at 30 when the adult female tries to untangle herself from her image of dada. is a dramatisation of the procedure of psychic catharsis in the talker. The persona’s systematic remembrance of all the mental projections of her male parent sums to an effort at eviction through direct confrontation with a devil produced in her imaginativeness. Both depth psychology and the spiritual rite of dispossession have regarded this procedure of confrontation with the “trauma” or the “demon” as potentially healing ; and from whichever perspective Plath viewed the procedure. she has her character confront—in a manner about relive—her childhood panic of a male parent whose existent being is every bit indistinct as the towns with which the miss tries to tie in him. Plath besides accentuates linguistically the speaker’s re-experiencing of her childhood.

Using the heavy meters of baby’s room rime and babe words such as “Chuffing. ” “Achoo. ” and “gobbledygoo. ” she employs a proficient device similar to Joyce’s in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. where the child’s simple position is reflected through linguistic communication. Like Joyce. Plath wants to animate with immediateness the child’s position. But whereas Joyce evolves his Stephen Dedalus from the “baby tuckoo” and the “moocow” phase into adulthood. she has her talker psychically regress to her childhood phantasies. where every German is potentially her male parent and the German linguistic communication seems to be an engine “chuffing” her off to Dachau. Because the persona’s yesteryear is pathologically connected to her present. this arrested development requires minimum distance for the grownup adult female who has been unable to release the infantile position.

As the linguistic communication of the verse form begins to except babe talk and to develop more entirely the vocabulary of venom. it signals a alteration in the persona’s method of covering with this image of the male parent. She moves from confrontation with her childhood projections to an retraction of the entire psychic image of the male parent in an effort at dispossession. Sounding more like Clytemnestra than a small girl playing Electra. she renounces the divinity turned demon with a retribution in the declaration. “Daddy. dada. you bastard. I’m through. ” The virulency of this and the statements instantly predating it indicates a ritualistic effort to transform the small girl’s love into the adult’s hatred and thereby kill the image which has preyed upon her.

The turning point in the verse form and in the speaker’s attempts to purge herself of the psychological significance of the male parent image occurs in the undermentioned stanza:

But they pulled me out of the poke.
And they stuck me together with gum.
And so I knew what to make.
I made a theoretical account of you.


The statement. “I made a theoretical account of you. ” suggests several degrees of significance. On the most obvious degree. the talker implies that she made of her male parent a paradigm of all work forces ; and this is borne out in the meeting of the male parent with the adult male to whom she says “I do. I do. ” Her image of the “man in black with a Meinkampf look” is superimposed upon the hubby so that alternatively of holding one unreality to destruct. she has two—the prototypic male parent and the hubby who is fashioned in his similitude. The verse form “Stings” establishes a similar relationship between the dead-imaginary male parent and the life but spectral hubby:

A 3rd individual is watching.
He has nil to make with the bee-seller or me.
Now he is gone

in eight great bounds. a great whipping boy.

A more complicated deduction of the speaker’s action in doing a theoretical account of the male parent. but one which is besides harmonic with the allusions to folklore in the ulterior mentions to vampirism. concerns the persona’s usage of thaumaturgy to free herself of the mental feelings associated with her male parent. The devising of a theoretical account. image. or effigy suggests symbolically a reaction non so much to the existent male parent but to the imago. or projection of his image in the head of the character. She employs what Fraser in The Golden Bough refers to as “sympathetic magic”—a generic term for assorted signifiers of thaumaturgy which are based on the premiss that a correspondence exists between animate and inanimate objects. One signifier. homeopathic thaumaturgy. is predicated on the belief that any representation may impact what it depicts. For illustration. a image of a individual. a voodoo doll. or any other kind of portraiture can. when acted upon. influence its paradigm. In “Daddy. ” it is the theoretical account of the male parent that the character destroys ; and the solution suggested in the devising of the theoretical account seems to happen as a effect of its association with the speaker’s ain Reconstruction after her attempted self-destruction. when she is “stuck. . . together with gum. ” Her remodeling. described in a manner that recalls the collection of a montage. seems to be the associatory stimulation for the thought of building the theoretical account through which to consequence her eviction. It is this theoretical account. a fancied representation of a deformed vision of the father—a hodgepodge mental feeling of him—that she seeks to destruct.

The tenseness between metempsychosis and obliteration pervades the Ariel verse form and seems to be a effect of unreconciled relationships. Plath recognizes her Nazis and lamias to be mental images of her ain creative activity. but she persists in associating to them as if they were existent. Here. as in the other verse forms. when she lets go of the image. there is nil left and she is finished. “through. ”

Paradoxically. the job with the dispossession in “Daddy” is non that it fails to work. but that it does work.

She roots out the old arrested developments. but without them she is psychically empty. effaced—as many of the late verse forms suggest.

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