Is Sylvia Plath's poem "Daddy" an autobiographical poem?

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In considering whether Sylvia Plath's poem "Daddy " is autobiographical, one needs to unpack the concept of "autobiography" as applied to poetry. The poem is a work of imagination and does not pretend to present a literal, nonfictional account of the empirical facts of Plath's life. Instead, literary...

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In considering whether Sylvia Plath's poem "Daddy" is autobiographical, one needs to unpack the concept of "autobiography" as applied to poetry. The poem is a work of imagination and does not pretend to present a literal, nonfictional account of the empirical facts of Plath's life. Instead, literary critics normally describe the genre of the poem as "confessional".

Like the work of Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton, Plath's "Daddy" reflects intense personal emotions and experiences. These emotions respond to real events in Plath's life but are refracted through her poetic imagination and expressed metaphorically. The narrator of the poem is not identical to Plath in precise detail, but rather a vehicle for expressing Plath's emotional, rather than empirical, realities.

Plath's father was a German-American professor of biology, not a Nazi and the family was Unitarian rather than Jewish. Nonetheless, the poem expresses certain ideas about patriarchy and its relationship to political oppression that were very emotionally real to Plath.

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The idea that Plath's "Daddy" is autobiographical is largely the critical consensus of the poem. The subject of the poem is almost certainly Otto Plath, who died before his daughter "had a chance to kill" him. Otto was largely a symbol of the patriarchal oppression that Plath not only suffered, but saw the same suffering in contemporaries of her time.

The poem also explores the fact that her father was a member of the Nazi party and her mother was Jewish, a contradiction that the speaker feels in her very soul. She laments that her father died while he was still "God," before Plath had the power to overthrow him herself. This anguish of loss and hatred towards the subject are contending emotions throughout the work that make the poem one of the most controversial to this day.

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Many critics think so, yes. There are definitely parts of the poem that parallel her feelings about her father and about a male-dominated society.  Plath felt oppressed by this society and was expressed in her poetry.  There are very few poets whose poems are so very connected to the their lives...Plath is one of these poets.  Her poems are intensely personal and much is revealed about her life through her poetry:

She saw herself as a product of a male society, molded by males to suit their particular whims or needs. Her contact with females in this context led inevitably to conflict and competition. This duality in her self was never overcome, never expelled, or, worse, never understood. Having failed to manipulate her manipulators, she tried to find identity by destroying her creators. Set free from the basis she had always known even if she despised it, she had nowhere else to go but to the destruction of the self as well. (Enotes)

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