Otto Plath, Sylvia Plath’s father, was very influential in Sylvia’s life. In the confessional poem, “Daddy,” Sylvia Plath seems to feel tormented by her feelings of abandonment and hatred toward her father because he left her at a young age, prohibiting her from living her life and escaping the negative memories of him. With the use of imagery, Plath explains her exact feelings of torment by her father. Sylvia Plath is afflicted throughout her entire life by the image of her father, with a “fat black heart” (76), “[biting her] pretty red heart in two” (56).
Otto Plath did not actually bite his daughter’s heart, but the reader can get a better picture of the pain Sylvia Plath was going through with the use of her vivid imagery. Also, a dramatic contrast is shown between Sylvia’s “pretty red heart” and her father’s “fat black heart. ” These lines continue the contrast the father to the speaker. Plath’s father is revealed as huge, evil, and black, while Plath herself, like her heart, is pretty, red, and a victim.
This demonstrates that Plath pictures herself as innocent prey to her father, who is a cruel and wicked oppressor. Plath also uses an allusion in order to describe her feelings toward her father and explain why she was never able to get past her traumatic memories of him. In order to describe her feelings of being victimized by her father, Plath alludes to the Holocaust, and tells how her father was “chuffing [her] off like a Jew” (32) in order to be tortured at “Dachau, Auschwitz, [or] Belsen” (33).
Plath’s Holocaust allusion compares her relationship with her father to that of a Jew and a Nazi. Once again, Plath portrays herself as a victim and her father as a tormentor. The anguish that the Jews experienced during the Holocaust can relate to Plath’s feelings of torment; however, Plath endured internal conflict only while the Jews suffered physically as well. Because of Plath’s relentless struggle either reconnect with or avenge her father, she was eventually driven to commit suicide, seeing it as her only portal to escape the agony she was undergoing.
Through the use of figurative language and allusion, the reader can get a clear image of Plath’s relationship with her father. Although the entire poem is meant to show that no matter how terrible her father was and how much he remains in her mind, Plath is now through with him; however, she fails, in the end, to completely erase him from her memory. It is easy to see that one who has been tortured all their life by feelings of abandonment and hatred can never truly convalesce.