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Death And Redemption: An Analysis Of Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy”

7 Pages 1779 Words

In her poem, “Daddy”, written in 1962, Sylvia Plath uses her confessional style of poetry to work through one of the most influential traumas of her life—the death of her father, Otto Plath. A German immigrant, Otto Plath married Aurelia Schober in 1932, after settling in Massachusetts as a professor at Boston University. Later that year, in October, the couple welcomed a daughter they called Sylvia. It has been documented that Otto wanted a boy and two years later, his son Warren was born. This left Sylvia pining for her father’s attention, doing anything she could to win his love (Butscher 8-9). Then, in 1940, Otto died after a neglected sore on his toe led to a gangrene infection that cost him his life.

Sylvia soon turned to poetry as a means of dealing with the emotional void left by her father’s death. She continued, though, to excel in school and was awarded a scholarship to study at Smith College in 1950. Despite her success, anxiety and depression still followed her and she was consequently treated with shock therapy as a last resort. The treatment was not successful and in 1953, she tried to take her own life and was eventually put under the care of a psychiatrist. She returned to college and graduated in 1955, receiving a Fulbright scholarship to study in Cambridge, England. It was there that she met her husband, Ted Hughes, the British poet laureate. She returned to America to teach at Smith and watched as her husband became a successful writer while her career waned. In 1959, they went back to England and had two children. Three years later, in 1962, Sylvia learned of Ted’s infidelities and filed for divorce (Exploring).

It was at this time that Sylvia wrote “Daddy”, one of her most well known poems. In it, she effectively embodies her feelings about the death of her father, the breakdown of her marriage and her own feelings of victimization and loss of self through symbolic references to “the foot,...

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