When to her husband (motioning an Electra

When reading Ariel as a collection, it is clear that darkness is a dominating theme in Plath’s writing which, although unusual, makes her poems both compelling and distinctive from others. Sylvia Plath takes strong stances in creating a tone that is desperately sad, which are typically embodied with vivid language -like in ‘Lady Lazarus’ “Dying / is an art, like everything else” 1 and “I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself”2 in ‘Tulips’- as a result causing readers to infer that these allegories are linked with Plath’s autobiography, mirroring her own depressive state. It comes to no surprise therefore, that from the beginning of stanza nine, right to the end of poem ‘Daddy’, these same characteristics are made apparent at first glance. A poem which primarily features child-like innocence is juxtaposed with brooding violence and adult themes: “Daddy, I have had to kill you”3 and innocence that is destroyed. Hence from stanza nine, Plath’s attention switches away from her father to her husband (motioning an Electra figure) and it becomes clear that ‘Daddy’ is symbolic of Plath’s powerlessness to patriarchy from male figures.

Despite the anguish that dominates the poem, ‘Daddy’ is about mourning and consequences of repressing grief. The narrative ambiguity beneath Plath’s passionate rage are potentially revealed when taking her bibliography into consideration: the poet’s father Otto Plath died when she was eight years old, which somewhat explains the heightened intensity of her writing. From the opening declaration, “I have always been scared of you”4, in stanza nine, the speaker addresses her now dead father who she feels intimidated by; she finds courage to confront him. However, what strikes the readers as most shocking is Plath’s deliberate likening of the father to Hitler with his “neat moustache”5. Not only does this further emphasise his malign influence, (“I never could talk to you. / The tongue stuck in my jaw”6) but it also reinforces the personas strong views of a him as a destructive man. Her employment of Hitler also reflects his power in the relationship whereby the narrative voice is vulnerable. Plath’s allusion to the Holocaust in this way is not unusual as it also makes an appearance in her other poem ‘Lady Lazarus’. This historical event occurred during the early years of her lifetime (causing the sufferings to be relatable to contemporary readers) and Plath is relatively direct and unapologetic when entering the sensitive topic of Jews and Nazis:

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