daddy: visionary times of memory

How do you deal with negative recurring themes through your life that end up instilling a deep pessimism? As a woman about choosing a spouse who holds the same detested personality traits as a disliked father.Take Sylvia Plath:” Trying to relate all references of father and husband to Otto Plath and Ted Hughes is ultimately a futile exercise. “Daddy” contains clever elusions to power and domination, and the inner subconscious lust for destruction, which are as much human characteristics as they are masculine, seen by the fact they are represented by Nazism as well as male characters.” Read More:

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.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time—
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one grey toe
Big as a Frisco seal …. (Sylvia Plath, Daddy)

"In Daddy, too, time may be said to be, “not a visual but a visionary time of memory...”. It is a Faulknerian concern with “frozen time”, of memory cathected to the past and its burden; the shadow of the past looming large on the “present” and foreclosing the future. “The present is not; it becomes. Everything was! In Daddy, the tone is “primitive”, “naive”, and also close to the nursery-rhyme. Both the personal and collective—this later, penetrated by the poet’s “Germanic” inheritance and the burdens thereof—memories are invoked in the poem in order to enact and perform a psychodrama. As Plath herself said, Daddy is “spoken by a girl with an Electra Complex”.---Read More: image:

Its a rejection of ideology. We detest in the other, in many cases, what we either possess ourselves or fear of becoming. In Plath’s case the fathers domination of the child through the power-lust relation and the intense inner dislike as narcissistic behavior; there is an attraction and an equal pull of repulsion. An idolizing and a desire to destroy the idol. Plath’s vision was both enigmatic and transparent; a world stuck between the surreal subconscious and almost inaccessible memories that constitute an unattainable nostalgic past. She was on the edge between repression and disavowal, saved by a determined deconstruction of the ways we manufacture innocence.

Plath was working on the theory of objects acquiring various meanings when juxtaposed with the memory of the viewer. In Daddy, this memory was the man disrupting, in nightmarish fashion, a woman’s dream of love as a dark force of intrusion into a childlike fantasy: the chasm between a mythic fairy tale world and dull, evil and obscure reality. When the cord holding the memories broke, at her father’s death, objects now assumed a novel and disconcerting guise, an aura that reflected a disturbing relationship between the incoherent known and the incomprehensible unknown;If art,and what could be termed the “truth” of art, existing at an inflection point between “the nude” and “being naked,” we can see how the unconscious can create a shame for being ashamed, a continuous cycle, an eternal recurrence of raw and painful and exhausting encounters.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew….


Chang:De Chirico's paintings are media for Plath to convey the psychological landscape. She borrows the surrealistic images, or subject matter, from his art works to manifest three basic themes: the victimized female under the devastating male dominance, the persistence of negative elements in her life, and the loss of an intellectual mentor. All three poems are an enigmatical representation of severance. The two worlds present in these poems indicate the gap between the speaker and her relatives—the agonizing male-female, mother-daughter, and father-daughter relationships. By portraying, or alluding to, de Chirico's paintings, Plath suggests a possibility to reclaim the relationship and undertake a symbolic rebirth. Read More: image:

In ‘Daddy’ Plath seems to have gained more agreesive and disturbing feelings towards her father. As other comments have said the poem also appears to be about Ted Hughes – “every women adores a facist”, perhaps Plaths bitterness towards her father only really surfaced after realising that she had married someone like him (Ted Hughes). Therefore, ‘The Bell Jar’ seems t

ve a more innocent and confused veiw of her father whilst ‘Daddy’ expresses extreme resentment possibly because Plath believes he drove her to marry someone exactly like him……… Read More:

"I first read Sylvia Plath's "Daddy" as a teen, having spent years delving into the history of the persecution of the Jews. I also was the daughter of a cold, misogynistic, Jewish father of German/Austrian parents. I found her poem cathartic and felt I understood every line on a visceral level without having to analyse it." Read More: image:

…The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gypsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of *you*,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You—…


The Disquieting Muses. "She mentions about not only her father, but also her husband. It was the time she divorce that this poem was published. She expresses her husband for to a vampire. And she wrote that he “drank my blood for a year, /Seven years, if you want to know.” A year means the time he was seeing another woman having an affair, and seven years means the time their marriage." Read More: image:


…Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do….

Another mystifying contradiction is the speaker’s self-image. Through the first nine or so stanzas, the speaker portrays herself as the victim made explicit through numerous references to Jews and the Holocaust. She also mentions Gypsies, another ostracized group, and talks about her fear of Daddy. However she then goes on to talk about her love of the rack and the screw, a certain sense of distorted enjoyment, though it could also be read as being cynical. Read More: a

"It is Daddy that first made and has subsequently sustained, as much as any other of Plath’s poems, her literary reputation. George Steiner, literary and culture critic of eminence, has compared Plath’s poem to Pablo Picasso’s graphic painting “Guernica”, in which distorted and mutilated bodies in a gray-black canvas, are barely contained within the painter’s space in what is a protest against the barbaric aerial bombing, in 1937, of the Spanish/Basque village of Guernica, by General Franco’s fascists." Read More: image:


"Is Sylvia Plath, especially in Daddy and “Lady Lazarus”, really guilty of “ripping off the Holocaust, of misappropriation—expropriation—of someone else’s abject history of collective and undeserved suffering, in order “to enlarge upon the personal plight, give meaning to the personal outcry, by fancying the girl as a victim of a Nazi Father? In what way does a girl, overcome by “Electra Complex”, break out of “a kind of shut box and mirror-looking narcissistic experience”, for her to proceed to relate to “such things as Hiroshima and Dachau, and so on”? Plath’s own response, in anticipation of Steiner’s and Howe’s criticism, is to imagine the girl with an “Electra Complex”: Her case is complicated by the fact that her father was also a Nazi and her mother possibly part Jewish. In the daughter the two strains marry and paralyse each other—she has to act out the awful allegory once over before she is free of it." Read More: image:

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two—
The vampire who said he was you
and drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat, black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always *knew* it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

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4 Responses to daddy: visionary times of memory

  1. Maureen says:

    You might find of interest this reading of “Daddy” by Plath. Many people are surprised by her voice:

  2. Kim Finley says:

    I always wonder if she had been cured of her neurosis whether she would have been the artist she was – a shrink friend that I have says, Yes! I wonder…

    • Dave says:

      I’m not convinced she was neurotic at all. Vulnerable to depression, but her disconnection was more an exploration of a virtual world. She was quite brilliant, but some of the conclusions she arrived at could be considered incoherent.

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