Analyze the poem "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath using feminist theory.  

“Daddy” by Sylvia Plath reflects feminist views of women's liberation and challenges stereotypical expectations of women's desire. For example, references to Nazi concentration camps underscore the state of the oppression of women. In addition, images of men as authority figures and fascists critique expectations that women want powerful, superior male figures in their life.

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In this poem, speaker strikes back against the patriarchy she believes has oppressed and attempted to destroy her, stating she has "killed" its presence in her life and that" "there's a stake in your [its] fat black heart."

The speaker first visualizes patriarchy in the form of a father figure,...

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In this poem, speaker strikes back against the patriarchy she believes has oppressed and attempted to destroy her, stating she has "killed" its presence in her life and that" "there's a stake in your [its] fat black heart."

The speaker first visualizes patriarchy in the form of a father figure, her "Daddy" who died when her speaker was ten. (This mirrors Plath's own life.) This individual "Daddy" becomes conflated with the image of Nazi soldiers, universalizing "Daddy" into a symbol of violent male oppression:

I thought every German was you.
She later refers to him as "panzer-man." His violence is symbolized by the luftwaffe, the German air force, and by the image of "the boot in the face."
The speaker then turns to a second man, usually understood in biographical terms as Plath's husband, Ted Hughes, who had recently left her for a younger woman after Plath gave birth to their second child. The speaker says this man is as violent and oppressive as her father:
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look
And a love of the rack and the screw.
She compares both men to vampires, saying they sucked the life blood out of her. They intimidated her with their Nazi-like violence, authoritarianism, and threats of violence. They made her feel worthless, just as the Nazis did to the Jews.
All of this is a critique of patriarchy, but the poem is also feminist in its assertion of female power. Like many women, the speaker might have once colluded with male power—she says "Every woman adores a Fascist"—but now she is done with this. In the last couplet, she states:
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.
Ending on the word "through" leaves the reader on a hopeful note: the abuse is in the past. The poem shows the growth of the speaker's awareness as to what has caused her grief and pain and her assertion of agency in refusing to be a victim any longer. It has become one of the most famous poems of the twentieth century.
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Feminist theory is a strain of literary theory which investigates works through the prism of feminism. It asks questions such as: Are there sentiments expressed in this work which suggest the oppression of women by men? Does this work suggest paternalism—the idea that women are subordinated by men and that men behave toward women as if they are children? Some works, like this one, deliberately flirt with feminist ideas; it is also possible to analyze an older work through the lens of feminist criticism when the work itself predates feminist theory.

Plath's "Daddy" certainly describes the sort of toxic paternalism feminism works against. The speaker is addressing her father; he is long dead, but he has haunted her like a "vampire," returning to drain her of her energy. At the same time that she loathes her father, she has also attempted suicide to return to him, thinking even his "bones" would be enough for her. In her desire for a father figure, the speaker has also allowed herself to be abused by another man who, metaphorically speaking, "drank [her] blood" for seven years.

The poem does not present "Daddy" as a warm or pleasant figure. Quite the contrary: the Nazi imagery that runs throughout sets up a power dynamic in which Daddy is a camp commandant, a man with a "Meinkampf look," while the speaker feels like a "Jew," a person he considers to be less than human. If "Daddy" is the black shoe, then the speaker is the "poor and white" foot trapped inside him. In order to escape the long shadow of her father, the speaker must finally let him go, or "kill" the idea of him. This strongly resonates with feminist theories surrounding female oppression by men and the need to escape and destroy the patriarchy in order to be free.

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The poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath examines women’s relationships with men through the lens of the speaker's relationship with her father. A feminist analysis takes into account the poem’s presentation of gender roles and the representation of women. Feminism opposes patriarchal culture and advocates for the liberation of women from patriarchal oppression. These themes are reflected throughout "Daddy" through images and comparisons used to portray the speaker’s relationship with her father. For example, the Nazi’s exploitation of the Jews is mentioned, drawing a parallel with the oppression of women.

The speaker's father died when the speaker was young, and the speaker expresses frustration at this. In a way, this story represents a woman's response to men who leave or hurt her. The speaker calls her father a “bastard,” which highlights the intense emotional toll that losing her father had on her.

The speaker’s strong expressions of anger against men makes a larger statement regarding feminist resistance against men. For example, consider the line that reads: “Every woman adores a Fascist.” Here, the speaker is undermining the stereotype that all women want a man to be more powerful than them. This idea is also reflected when the speaker says, “You stand at the blackboard Daddy.” This line constructs the image of a male figure in a position of authority over a woman. The speaker depicts her father, and by extension male figures in women’s lives, in this way, but then “kills” the image. In doing so the speaker (and Plath) challenges patriarchal notions of male superiority.

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