Themes

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

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.

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.

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