The Poem Daddy by Sylvia Path

According to Leonard Cohen, “If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. Poetry is just the evidence of life.” As the life of Sylvia Plath got cremated into a pile of dust, her works of poetry bloomed and grew. In addition to being an American novelist and poet, Sylvia Plath was also a wife, teacher, and mother. She was born on 27th October 1932 in Boston Massachusetts. Her father, Otto Emile Plath, was a professor at Boston University and an immigrant from Germany with majors in German and Biology. He, however, died of diabetes complications a month after Sylvia’s eighth birthday in 1940. Aurelia Schober Plath, her mother, on the other hand, was among the first generations of Austrian descent in America. During the period she was most troubled, that is, few years before her death, Sylvia Plath wrote the poem “Daddy” that is mainly about the sadness of depression. This prose and poetry by Sylvia reflect majorly on her battle that got primarily extended against despair. The poem also brought her struggles as a woman and as an artist to life. For most of her life as an adult, Sylvia Plath was clinically depressed and had numerous counts of treatment with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). She nonetheless committed suicide in 1963.

Daddy, by Sylvia Plath, contains sixteen five-line stanzas of the venomous and brutal poem that is ordinarily assumed to be mainly about Sylvia’s dead father. It still rests one of the utmost contentious poems of the modern times ever to be written. In the poem, Sylvia Plath introduces her poetry by describing her unresolved struggles mainly because her father died while she was a child. Between lines 6 through 8, she says “Daddy, I have had to kill you. / You died before I had time / Marble-heavy, a bag full of God.”(Line 6-8). She portrayed the obtainment of her freedom from oppression by the male gender. Throughout this poem, there is an existing theory that the subjects of Sylvia’s poem are her father figure and husband, Ted Hughes as well as her dead father.

It is a bizarre, dark and also painful allegory that uses devices such as rhythm that brings forth the idea of a casualty, who is a girl and frees herself from her father. There is a sense of inconsistency that is noticeable in the organization and scheme of rhyme in the poem. It uses a kind of singsong speaking way and nursery rhyme. There are repeated rhymes, short lines, and hard sounds. In stanza I, there is rhyme detected, that is, “You do not do, you do not do.” as if insisting on something. In stanzas 49 and 50, Sylvia also uses rhyme, “The boot in the face, the brute / Brute heart of a brute like you.” (Line 49 &50). It fortifies and institutes Sylvia’s status as a childlike character concerning her commanding dad. The relation is also made clear by the fact that the name she choses for him is “Daddy.” Her sounds, “oo” are also of childish rhythm.

The poem has a tone that can be described as that of an adult who has been engulfed in outrage. The outrage shown is at times slipped into a child’s sobs. From her tone of how Sylvia repeatedly calls her father daddy, it is clear that she is full of affection, consideration and unselfish love. The tone is nevertheless detected to change throughout the rest of the poem. Her tone changes to be filled with hate, anger, harshness, and rage. It is evident when Sylvia continually uses the word daddy and the repetitions like those of a child “you do not do, you do not do” and “Daddy, daddy, you bastard.” In the poem, we are made aware of the struggles she has been through mainly in the form of fear from her infancy. Sylvia writes of how she had always been scared of her daddy and how as a result of these struggles, pain, and fear, she had the urge to kill his dad (Osborne & Cedars, 2012).

Personification is the illustration of a general feature in human form and human accrediting appearances or a personal nature to something which is not rational. In Daddy, stanzas 8, 9 and 10 illustrate Sylvia personifying his dad. That is, “Marble-heavy, a bag full of God / Ghastly statue with one gray toe / Big as a Frisco seal.” In the 46th stanza, she also says, “Not God but a swastika,” about his father. In addition to this, she also compares her dad to a vampire in stanza 72 (Line 8,9,10,46 &72). These verses clearly demonstrate Sylvia’s view about her father as well as her opinion towards him.

In conclusion, the rhythms, tone, and personification discussed are well placed and intellectually used. I had not known this poem until now, though I had heard of it. Sylvia was very disturbed and in my opinion, writing a poem so personal and delicate takes bravery since one is exposing their soul and ambiance to the world. Sylvia Plath might have been a very misunderstood writer but then again, looking closely, one can make sense of her “madness.” The imagery of the poem Daddy is haunting because Sylvia had many demons to banish.

The Opposing Side; An Analysis of Placebo

In Andrew Vachss’ Placebo, readers are introduced to unnamed narrator. He has a “good” reputation in the community, and is commonly known as the “Janitor” or the “Repairman.” He repeatedly tells the audience that he knows “how to fix things.” Throughout the monologue, the stage gradually changes the setting from a construction to destruction at every successive image narrated. At the beginning, readers perceive the narrator as a caring person who simply wants to help others in order to redeem his own mistakes, but as the play progresses, it is slowly revealed the Janitor has underlying thirst for violence. The movement of the narrator’s good intentions into a thrilling suicidal mood is explained by Elinor Fuchs’ method highlighted in his article, EF’s Visit to a Small Planet, in which he asserts the importance of analyzing images in a play and how images propel the progression of the story and character development (7). The narrator’s change of character through the story is symbolized by the images. His transformation from the beginning to the end shows the opposing sides of the Janitor as they manifest.

The monologue begins with the narrator’s self-introduction where he admits that he is able to fix everything and make them work the way they are supposed to. A significant image is the attempt to help the dog that has been injured by a freak. The Janitor helps “Doberman” who is bleeding all over the place from a cut in its throat. He explains that he brought the puppy down the basement to fix him up” (Vachss 448). The readers have the immediate impression that the narrator has a kind hearted soul to help a hurt creature. But with a lightheartedness, the Janitor adds, “I took care of the freak” (Vachss 448). This following activity seems a good way to protect the dog; and as he fixes everything, the other characters like Mrs. Barnes and Tommy believes in him. However, “taking care of the freak” inferrs that the Janitor also created knife wounds on the freak to avenge the harm he had caused on the dog. Hurting an animal cannot justify the act of killing a person; the Janitor’s choice of physically damaging the “freak,” thus, reveals his lust for killing and violence. Since it is not explicitly stated, the audience does not have a reason to assume the actual behaviour of the Janitor until further evidence is displayed. But the image of knife wounds is the beginning where the audience starts to feel the oddity of the Janitor.

In the middle of the monologue, the janitor meets Tommy who is scared, and believes to see monsters every day. The narrator introduces the audience to an image of a metal box with a row of lights on the top and a toggle switch which he uses to cure his “patient.” A significant image that shows the turning point of the story is the appearance of Dr. English. When Tommy’s mom tells the teacher about the machine, he says it is fake. The Janitor explains that Dr. English had told her Mrs. Barnes that “the machine he made was a placebo, and Tommy would always need a therapy” (Vachss 449). Although he seems to not have been bothered by this statement, his subsequent actions proves otherwise. Mrs. Barnes’ call to inform Dr. English about the medicine makes the image even more alarming. The Janitor calls the school pretending to be State Disability Commission. Finding a lady, he asks information about the teacher; “I got her to tell me his full names, got her to talk. I know how things work” (Vachss 450). His persistence to find the truth could be mistaken by readers to be for the benefit of Tommy. However, it is suspicious that his interest emanates only when Mrs. Barnes shows his compassion and trust towards the teacher.

Finally, the end of the play shows a complete change in the character of the narrator. His failure to “fix” Tommy’s nightmare problem pushes the Janitor back to his original methods, which are violence and death. The Janitor creates a “machine that works” (Vachss 451) – two rubber balls connected by a piano wire. This image is simplistic but very powerful as it reveals the full transformation of the narrator’s character. After making the machine, the Janitor explains that “when it gets dark tonight, he’ll show Dr. English a machine that works” (Vachss 451). The audience is not privy to how rooted this is into the Janitor until this point where Vachss reveals the carefully crafted weapon at the end. For the most of the play the audience is given circumstantial evidence only, with a skeptical tone running throughout the narrative. However, when actual evidence is introduced at the end of the play, the audience’s change of the perception of the Janitor is inevitable.

In summary, the three images of the monologue converge to vividly explore the transformation the narrative’s character from “good” to worse. Fuchs states “look at the first image; now look at the last” (7). As such the first image represents the Janitor, the Fix-It Guy that had some dark history but helps others in need. The last image, however, represents the Janitor reducing himself to a mere criminal that is no better than those he goes after. The middle image transitions the primary idea of helping others to the last behavior of a monster. Through the images the audience was able to see the “construction and destruction” of the narrator (Fuchs 7). And by seeing this change, we can perceive the Janitor as a character that changed and possibly destructed himself at the end of the play.