Daddy is a poignant story of one woman’s struggle to finally end her life-long guilt over her father’s death. Sylvia Plath was the daughter of a domineering and abusive father, who passed away when she was ten years old. This was an extremely difficult incident for Plath to deal with. She was unable to put closure to his death, and even tried to reunite herself with him through a faulty suicide attempt at age twenty. Her father is appropriately compared to a Nazi using intense imagery.
The language that Plath uses in "Daddy" is very powerful in depicting the poem's meaning. The description of Daddy having an "Aryan eye, bright blue" (44) clearly symbolizes him as a white man, but throughout the poem he is described as black, and with an aura of darkness. Along with the “Aryan” images comes other images of Hitler and WWII German symbolism, which portray Daddy as an evil, horrible man (16-20, 29, 40-48, and 65). One aspect of this is Plath's representation of her father's domineering personality and control over her. She documents this through the use of imagery. Plath puts herself in the position of a Jewish person, which is shown when she says, "I began to talk like a Jew./ I think I may well be a Jew"(34-35). Creating this status of characters shows that Plath's father had a great deal of control over her. Portraying a German-Jew relationship within the poem is illustrative of the fear and resentment Plath felt concerning this father-daughter relationship.
Even though the relationship didn't involve direct physical abuse, the kind of emotional abuse and trauma she suffered can be compared with the Nazi persecution of Jews. This was more than enough to create deep emotional scars forever (31-40) Only after 30 years and much hardship was Plath " able to become free, at last, from the cycle of abuse which she continued by marrying a man who was a “model” of her father (64). The descriptions of her feelings toward Daddy testify to the fact that when the person who is supposed to protect you takes advantage of you, it is very difficult to automatically turn off feelings of love toward them even though you were taken advantage. The fact that Daddy was a white Aryan-type man is in contrast to the dark descriptions of him. This darkness reflects the evil of Daddy's character. Because whiteness often symbolizes purity, Plath had to refer to Daddy as a "black man" in order to portray his true character.
Plath certainly has a right to use this imagery. It helps her deal with the true conflict at hand. The conflict of this poem is male authority and control versus the right of a female to be herself, to make choices, and be free of male domination. A conflict begins in her relationship with her father and continues with her husband. The intensity of this conflict is extremely apparent as she uses examples that cannot be ignored. The atrocities of Nazi Germany are used as symbols of the horror of male domination. The constant and crippling manipulation of the male, as he introduces oppression and hopelessness into the lives of his women, is equated with a horrible time in the twentieth century. Words such as Luftwaffe, panzerman, and Meinkampf are used to describe her father and husband as well as all male domination. The frequent use of the word black throughout the poem conveyed a feeling of gloom and darkness. Like many women in society, we know that Plath felt oppressed throughout her life by her use of the simile “I have lived like a shoe for thirty years poor and white, barely able to breath or Achoo.” The use of similes and metaphors such as “Chuffing me off like a Jew. A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belson.” and “I think I may well be a Jew” clearly shows her feelings of hopelessness. Unfortunately, there will always be women who feel the same torture that is described.
In order to end the cycle of abuse, the speaker needed to deal with these evil images of Daddy. When she finally does, she metaphorically "killed" her father, freeing herself from the suffocating cycle of abuse. Then, in 1963, her suicide