How does Plath's speaker express her love for her father in the poem "Daddy"?

Plath's speaker primarily expresses rage and hatred at her father in the poem "Daddy," but love emerges in a few lines that explain some of the ways she tried to reconnect with him after he died, such as:

In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "Daddy," Plath's speaker primarily speaks of her rage at her father and her father substitute, her estranged husband, Ted Hughes. However, in several lines of the poem she tries to trace out the different ways she sought her dead father's love before her awakening that she is "through" with him and all he represents.

The poem has autobiographical elements: Plath's father was German and died when she was young, and she did have memories that connected him to the New England coast that she alludes to.

The first love element we see is Plath, as a young person, praying for her dead father's return to a place she associated with him:

In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.

She also tries to explain how she could love him, alluding to how easy it is to mix up the attention that comes with love and the attention that comes from violence:

Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face...

She refers to a real event, a serious suicide attempt she made at 20, as one of the ways she tried to return to her father:

At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

When that did not work, she "made a model," or found a substitute, in a husband:

I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.

However, what has occurred is not a reunion with a beloved father, either through prayer, death, or a substitute, but a realization that she has to turn away completely from the destructive authoritarianism and violence her father represents to her.

It's also worth mentioning that indifference, not hate, is often said to be the opposite of love. The strength of hate and rage that Plath's speaker exhibits could be taken as evidence of how deeply she once loved the men she has now turned away from.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial