Daddy poem summary

By Sylvia Plath

It is said that, it is the absence of her father that shapes much of Plath’s work as her poems record her reaction to her irreparable personal loss. There is a sense of shock, betrayal and refusal which brings her to the reality of death. Therefore, there are few crucial biographical facts which cast their shadow on her work; the premature death of her father, the separation from her husband (Ted Hughes) and her suicide attempts.  


‘Daddy’ is a confessional poem written by one of the bold American writer Sylvia Plath in 1963. Daddy poem was published by her husband Ted Hughes after her death in 1965, posthumously in the collection of Ariel.

Majorly the poem Daddy is based on personal experience by the poet Sylvia Plath, which deals with her own grief, betrayal and refusal of a daughter on deceased father Otto Plath, who died leaving her daughter in a very young age of eight.


‘Daddy’ has the theme of ‘Electra complex’, grief on loss of a father, ambivalence and history of world like (Nazi-Jewish).


The tone of the poem is abrasive, discordant and betrayal. It is in a disturbing tone of a daughter on the father’s death.

Literary Device

In ‘Daddy’ the poet illustrates her feelings of anger and resentment towards her father and husband through most vivid poetic devices like; metaphor, imagery, rhyme and simile etc. There is no rhyme scheme only rhyme used by Plath at the end i.e. blue-you, true-Jew.  The poem consists of 16 stanzas and written in present tense, though the poet while referringpast memories switches past tense.


Daddy is a confessional yet controversial poem by Plath. The poet begins the poem by addressing the circumstances in which she lives. She describes her father as a ‘Nazi’ (a dictorial) a giant statue, a confining shoe and a vampire. The poet uses ‘Electra complex’ borrowed from Greek mythology. It can be noted that she evokes the Electra myth to describe the relationship between herself and her father.

There are three facts which majorly highlighted by the poet’s psychological trauma i.e. (I) deliberate effort to go beyond the self by employing and Greek myth (II) the poet took reference to describe her father from world history (the Nazi-Jew) animosity and (III) the poet talks about the existence of opposing forces within one’s psyche. For instance; the good and bad, the gentle and the harsh, and the Jew and Nazi.

In the poem ‘Daddy’, the absence of her father grows like a tree as it grows to the towering height of a colossus, sometimes seen as a “Man in Black”, or as a crucial tyrant, thus he is not just a benevolent father- figure, but also a male violent force of portending doom and destruction. The poet’s attitude towards this colossus is an ambiguous one. In the first place, because the father, by dying has deserted his child and hence there is a resentment against him. Such are the dichotomous feelings that Plath expresses in relation to her father through the colossus image in “Daddy”.

Therefore, according to Plath, it is an exorcism of the demons that haunt her, this poem is a therapeutic and has a cathartic effect. It concisely speaking of the two conflicting strains within the girl which marry and paralyze each other, Plath through ‘Daddy’ deals with the influence of heredity on an individual as these psychological tensions are hereditary, a legacy from the Electra like girl’s who has mixed parental background from Nazi and Jewish.

Being a victim of such clashing characteristics, often the opposing forces within the self, do not owe their origin to family history but they are ingrained in human nature. However, in ‘Daddy’ the storm and curse against one who has betrayed the persona of the poet could only be uttered by one who cares, one who has loved deeply and truly and who has been hurt because her love has come to nothing. Such are the ambivalent feelings that through “Daddy” the poet expresses against dead father.

Therefore, it is her father whose memory holds her in thrall and which must be shaken off if the protagonist breath freely again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s