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Last Reviewed on September 23, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 265

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

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These opening lines from Plath's poem "Daddy" signal its ultimate direction. The poem's style is confessional, abrupt, and symbolic. Immediately, the reader is plunged into a repeated phrase using the ambiguous verb "to do." In this context, to "not do" might easily be replaced with "suffice." Hence, you do not suffice—you are not good enough anymore. However, the caesura and repetition indicate an incomplete phrase, one uttered pathologically, possibly in distress. You do not do what? You do not do what? It is deliberately unclear.

In the following line, the speaker describes the poem's addressee, the father, as a "black shoe" which she has occupied "like a foot." One can glean several emotions here: to live like a foot implies squalor, utility, and baseness, inviting sympathy and suggesting bitterness. This is not a purely angry address, however. The speaker has cast off this oppressive figure, the shoe in which she has been forced to live. It therefore sets a tone of liberation and asserted freedom.

And now I
Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.

In these lines from "Ariel," the speaker, having already "unpeel[ed]," succumbs to an inner force. She "Foam[s] to wheat," a gesture at once metaphoric, onomatopoeic, and strikingly visual. The "glitter" she becomes is a further visual stimulus. The reader is presented with an image of the speaker being emancipated, transcending her earthly body and spreading herself among the landscape.

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