Use of Symbolism in the Poem "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath

Date:  2021-03-30 13:08:28
3 pages  (869 words)
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University of California, Santa Barbara
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Research paper
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The use of symbolism in the poem "Daddy" is used by the author, Sylvia Plath, to create a clear picture of the kind of relationship that existed between the father, Otto Plath, and his daughter, Sylvia Plath. The author uses symbols such as vampires, communication, size and Nazis to explain to the audience the feelings that she harbored towards her father and how victimized she was in the relationship that they had (Rose, 1993).

Plath describes her father as a Nazi through the use of metaphors and imagery and portrays herself as a Jew who is only but a victim to her father. The author metaphorically uses the train engine in lines 30 t0 35 to bring out the German language that her father used to speak. She alludes being taken away to a concentration camp and compares it to the Jews' experience during the Holocaust (Newman, 1970). Through this metaphor, the author sees herself as a victim of her father as she compares herself to the Jews and her father to the Nazis. The comparison is evident where the author says "I thought every German was you/And the language obscene/An engine, an engine/Chuffing me off like a Jew" (Plath, 29-32). The author uses these lines to connect her father to the Nazis and feels imprisoned in his shadow.

Plath's use of German words such as Luftwaffe" in line 42 also links her father to the Nazis. The term "Luftwaffe" is a German word which was used to describe the German forces and its use in the poem, though not directly, incriminates his father as a Nazi. The author builds on the symbolic embodiment of her father as a Nazi by creating a subtle allusion between his mustache and Hitler's. The lines "And your Aryan eye, bright blue/ Panzer-man, panzer- man, O you" (Plath, 44-45) are also used by the author to implicate Otto Plath as a Nazi. The Nazi people have Aryan bright blue eyes, and the term "Panzer" refers to a tanker in the German language while "Panzer-men" was a word used to refer to the men who guarded the tankers.

Plath employs the use of metaphors and imagery to bring out the symbolic depiction of her father as huge and immense and views herself as small in his presence. In lines 1 to 5, the author says "Anymore, black shoe/ In which I have lived like a foot/ For thirty years, poor and white/ Barely daring to breathe or Achoo" (Plath, 2-5). Lines 1 to 5, therefore, use a metaphor that likens her father to a shoe and herself to the foot. She sees herself as small enough to fit in a shoe and her father, who she compares to a shoe, as enormous and big enough for her to live in. Through line 3, the author depicts herself as a victim who has been poor for the past thirty years due to the shadow that her father's size casts on her. Later, in lines 9 to 11, Plath uses a statue as a metaphor to refer to her father. She says that her father is a ghastly statue whose toe she compares to a Frisco seal and a head that covers the entire Atlantic. This vividly brings out the symbolism of how Plath views her father. She assumes the position of a victim since she cannot compare her size to that of her father (Rose, 1993).

The communication symbol is used all over the poem. It's quite clear that, although the whole poem is about the author's father, she's unable to communicate and pass her message across to him effectively. In lines 24 to 28, Plath uses metaphors and onomatopoeia to bring about the use of communication as a symbol. She uses the metaphor of her tongue getting stuck on her jaw which metaphorically indicates that she was unable to speak and later uses a metaphor within that metaphor to further state that her jaw turned into a barbed wire snare. The onomatopoeic use of "Ich, ich, ich, ich/ I could hardly speak" (Plath, 27-28) to depict her stammering while trying to communicate to her father through the German language. Bringing out the comparison between the telephone and a plant, the metaphor Plath uses in lines 68 to 70 indicates the termination of communication between her and her father. She says, "So daddy, I'm finally through/The black telephone's off at the root/ The voices just can't worm through" (Plath, 68-70).

In lines 72 to 74, Plath uses the metaphor of a vampire as a symbol that represents her father. She alleges indirectly by comparing her father to her husband who's been drinking her blood for seven years an indication of how long she suffered being a victim of her husband and hence her father. She says, "If I've killed one man, I've killed two/ The vampire who said he was you/ And drank my blood for a year" (Plath, 71-73). The author, therefore, manages to create images of her father in the in the minds of the readers by successfully applying the use of symbols brought out through metaphors and imagery (Rose, 1993).

Works Cited

Newman, Charles. The Art of Sylvia Plath: A Symposium. Indiana University Press, 1970.

Plath, Sylvia. Daddy. NA, 1981.

Rose, Jacqueline. The Haunting of Sylvia Plath. Harvard Univ Pr, 1993.

 

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