What is the tone used by Sylvia Plath in "Daddy"?
“Daddy” by Sylvia Plath was written after her separation from husband poet, Ted Hughes, who left her for another woman. Furthermore, it was not long before her suicide in 1963. Obviously, Plath was not in a good place psychologically or emotionally. This is a disquieting, yet well-written poem from a woman who has lost her father and her husband.
Plath’s situation grew worse as she was left to care for their children by herself in the dead of winter. Already having attempted suicide more than once, Plath finally succeeded while her children slept in the apartment. Thankfully, she...
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“Daddy” by Sylvia Plath, published posthumously in 1965, has a dark and anguished tone. The poem rages against the father figure as a bastard and a brute rather than a benevolent authoritarian.
Otto Plath, Sylvia Plath’s father and a German immigrant, had a leg amputated due to diabetic complications, and is rendered as a “ghastly statue with one gray toe” in “Daddy.” The young poet was profoundly affected and traumatized when, at eight years old, her father died. Their complex relationship is written in the poem as that of a Nazi father and Jewish daughter. He is compared to the devil—“a cleft in your chin instead of your foot”—and Adolf Hitler. In possession of a “neat mustache” and “Meinkampf look,” the father exerts a cruel and dictatorial influence over his daughter.
The dark tone becomes even heavier as Plath makes mention of her suicide attempts—“they pulled me out of the sack/and they stuck me together with glue”—and the deterioration of her marriage to Ted Hughes. She conflates the two men, writing that both had a “love of the rack and the screw” and likens them to vampires, draining her of blood and leaving bite marks on her heart. By also using babyish words in the poem—“achoo,” “gobbledygoo”—the tone of “Daddy” ranges from childlike and fearful to bitterly contemptuous.