“Daddy” by Sylvia Plath is by right considered a magnificent poem about daughter’s relationship with a father. Also it can also be read as an allegory of female yielding and final revolt in a men’s world who have been responsible for all the disasters and wars of the twentieth century. In accordance with this poem women are oppressed and subdued in society by masculine priorities.
The male characters in this poem such as father, teacher, statue, gestapo officer, husband and vampire are created as leading and oppressive. The father appears as a strong, powerful and restrictive – god-like figure. The female character is constrained (‘black shoe/In which I have lived like a foot’) and unable to lead a full life (‘Barely daring to breathe or Achoo’) in his prevailling presence. This oppression is realised by the female character who decides that she must revolt against this male power that reject her control over her life (‘Daddy , I have had to kill you.’) The father is compared with the Nazi who takes the responsibility for the mass slaughter of Jews (‘I thought every German was you’) and the female character is depicted as the oppressed victim (‘I think I may well be a Jew’). Putting her father on the stage next to the Nazis, at the same time she puts women in the same position as the Jews, being exploited and violated. In this comparative portrayal men have the force to destroy women, to be the reason of their metaphorical deaths all within legitimate limits.
Plath uses the irony while depicting the stereotype of women who like abusive, strong men – ‘Every woman adores a Fascist,/The boot in the face, the brute/ Brute heart of a brute like you.’ – to show the inequality in the relationships between men and women. This irony justifies the male violence as being natural.
The refusal from power via silencing women, particularly seen through the try to articulate the ich (‘I’: It stuck in a barb wire snare./Ich, ich, ich, ich.’) and it shows the subordinate role of women in the men’s world. The poem describes that the real power of the men is to make women give in to the dominant ideology, making their additional part of the natural order of the world. It is usually visible in sado-masochistic images (‘The boot in the face’, ‘And a love of the rack and the screw’) which make women to be responsible for their own additional role.
Women are made so that must be instructed by the wise males (‘You stand at the blackboard, Daddy’). Men are rational, while women are emotional (‘Bit my pretty are heart in two’), who commit suicide when they feel lonely and depressed. However, the female character is watching these unjust relationships, and sees her father-teacher figure as the devil (‘A cleft in your chin instead your foot/But no less a devil for that’). Then the father and husband are are called vampires (‘The vampire who said he was you/And drank my blood for a year’) who must be at last killed with a stake in the heart to return the female character her freedom.
The poem is full of the sense of suffocation felt by the female character towards her father and husband. The poem “Daddy” criticizes the male aggression and depicts men being responsible for all the social injustices. The narrator depicts the discrimination of women but at the end of the poem she points out that females break free of these constraints.