Themes

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Last Updated on March 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 278

Parental Influence

Plath's father, despite his death and negative legacy, has an enduring influence on her, drawing similarities between Plath and the speaker; however, the speaker is not necessarily Plath herself. Describing the father-figure in the title as a "Colossus" is foreboding, giving a sense of his ominous memory and its oppressive presence in the speaker's mind. She seems to feel a sense of obligation to "put [him] together" in her mind, to come to a conclusion about who and what he was, about his character and legacy in her life, and she labors at this incessantly. However, it hardly seems to be a labor of love for him; it is more like an act of self-preservation and understanding. This need occupies her day and night, though she expresses fraught ambivalence about it.

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Personal Struggles

Plath references the Oresteia, a trilogy of ancient Greek tragedies, which deals, in part, with Electra's coming to terms with the death of her father, Agamemnon (who was murdered by Electra's mother, Clytemnestra). The significance of her struggle is as powerful and omnipresent as legend or myth. Her pain and her labors are no less meaningful or mythic in scope, she seems to feel, as Electra's.

Losing a Parent

The speaker's confession to attempting to "dredge the silt" from her father's throat for the past thirty years shows just how affecting the loss of him is to her. Though she clearly harbors deeply ambivalent feelings toward him—or perhaps because her feelings are ambivalent—she cannot seem to move past his death. She does mourn, but her feelings amount to so much more than grief, and they become all-consuming, occupying her by day and by night.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 574

Many American poets writing after World War II concentrated on their own personal histories or family trees for poetic subject matter. Sylvia Plath is often linked with Anne Sexton, Robert Lowell, and John Berryman, all poets writing in postwar America, because of the self-analysis and self-reflection present in the poems. Often these writers are called “confessional poets” because they reveal their own personal obsessions, psychological quirks, or tawdry misdeeds in the poems. Plath’s “The Colossus” fits into this school of poetry because of its self-absorption and the ambivalent feelings the speaker has toward her father.

Sylvia Plath’s relationship with her father, who died when she was eight, is the subject of much of her poetry. In later poems, especially “Daddy,” she reveals astonishingly strong and disturbing feelings toward her father. She imagines herself as a Jew and her father as a Nazi and confesses that she, in some way, relishes the role: “Every woman adores a Fascist,/ The boot in the face, the brute/ Brute heart of a brute like you.” The poet seems to enjoy the need for punishment, perhaps to erase feelings of guilt about her father’s death.

“The Colossus,” an early poem, does not go quite so far in examining the psychologically disturbing relationship of father and daughter as “Daddy” does, but it does examine archetypal patterns of behavior. It is no accident that the poem’s one direct allusion to a classical text comes with the “blue sky out of the Oresteia.” That trilogy by the Greek tragic playwright Aeschylus deals in part...

(The entire section contains 852 words.)

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