Daddy Poem Summary line by line
Daddy is a powerful and emotionally charged poem written by Sylvia Plath. It explores identity, emotional tragedy, and the nuanced dynamics between dads and daughters. Written in a confessional style, the poem is sometimes read as a mirror of Plath’s turbulent marriage to poet Ted Hughes and her personal battles with her father, Otto Plath.
Daddy Poem Summary
“You do not do, you do not do”
The tone of estrangement or absence is established early in the poem by the speaker’s father’s repeated claims that he accomplishes nothing.
“Any more, black shoe”
The reference to a “black shoe” conjures up a specific picture and alludes to a departure or loss.
“In which I have lived like a foot”
Living “like a foot” is a metaphor that suggests captivity or imprisonment.
“For thirty years, poor and white,”
The speaker talks of a protracted time of deprivation, poverty, and possibly psychological distress.
“Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.”
The inability to breathe or speak indicates a life that is restricted, possibly because of oppression or terror.
“Daddy, I have had to kill you.”
The speaker announces a figurative act of killing her father, suggesting a symbolic liberation from a dominating or oppressive figure.
“You died before I had time—”
The speaker implies that her father’s influence or control persisted even after his physical death, limiting her own development.
“Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,”
The use of “marble-heavy” and “a bag full of God” describes the weight and imposing nature of the father’s influence, possibly alluding to authority or a domineering presence.
“Ghastly statue with one gray toe”
The imagery of a “ghastly statue” with a “gray toe” evokes a lifeless and foreboding image.
“Big as a Frisco seal”
The comparison to a seal adds to the sense of lifelessness and suggests a seal on the speaker’s own life or freedom.
“And a head in the freakish Atlantic”
The mention of the “freakish Atlantic” may symbolize emotional turmoil or the vastness of the speaker’s inner struggles.
“Where it pours bean green over blue”
The vivid image of green beans pouring over blue suggests a surreal or unnatural landscape, possibly representing the impact of the father’s presence on the speaker’s world.
“In the waters off beautiful Nauset.”
The reference to Nauset, a location on Cape Cod, adds a specific geographical element, possibly tying the poem to real-life locations associated with Plath’s experiences.
“I used to pray to recover you.”
The speaker acknowledges a past desire to “recover” or revive the father, indicating a complex and conflicted relationship.
The German phrase “Ach, du” translates to “Oh, you” and adds a layer of personal and cultural significance, possibly reflecting the father’s German background.
“In the German tongue, in the Polish town”
The poem introduces the father’s cultural background, providing additional context to the speaker’s identity and family history.
“Scraped flat by the roller”
The description of being “scraped flat by the roller” conveys a sense of oppression or erasure.
“Of wars, wars, wars.”
The repetition of “wars” emphasizes the father’s involvement in historical conflicts, possibly alluding to World War II and its impact on the family.
“But the name of the town is common.”
The speaker downplays the significance of the father’s background, suggesting a sense of disillusionment or resentment.
“My Polack friend”
The use of the term “Polack” may carry derogatory connotations, emphasizing the speaker’s complex feelings toward her father.
“Says there are a dozen or two.”
The Polack friend suggests that there are many towns with similar names, diminishing the uniqueness of the father’s origin.
“So I never could tell where you”
The uncertainty about the father’s origin contributes to the speaker’s sense of confusion and disconnection.
“Put your foot, your root,”
The mention of “foot” and “root” suggests the father’s influence and roots, possibly tied to heritage or identity.
“I never could talk to you.”
The speaker laments an inability to communicate with her father, highlighting a significant emotional barrier.