You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time —-
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off the beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine,
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gypsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You —-

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two —-
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagersnever liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Sylvia Plath's poem Daddy


  1. calcrnflakegirl says:

    I had never heard of Sylvia Plath until I was up all night watching t.v. trying to distract my own depressed thoughts, due to finding out that my boyfriend had been cheating on me, when a movie called Sylvia came on, and you can imagine the emotions I felt as I watched her life’s story unfold. I started reading her poetry and learning more about her life and have become a great admirer of her works. My comment is for Lenore from United States. I just wanted to say that your interpetation of this poem is excellent! Your research and knowledge of her life is very extensive and I believe you’ve nailed it! For a lack of better words. It’s very early in the morning and my brain is a bit fried. Great Job, you’ve explained this poem so well, as I go back and read it, I can see how it all fits and comes together, that it now makes sense. Thank you, I hope you’ve commented on all of her poetry.

  2. Angel says:

    To hear read Sylvia’s works of art, is such a soothing thing, to know that there were writers like that back then in 20th century just gives me chills. I have not read another authos writings that have anazed me since I’ve found out about Sylvia Plath about four years ago, her works of literature austounded me. I am a junior in high school and I have to write about an American author and of course as I always choose, I chose Sylvia Plath, although ever year I get to research an author and it usually ends up being her I am still amazed in reading more of her life styles and workds or art. Daddy has got ot be my favorite poem of hers and The Bell Jar is my most favorite book EVER! I cannot fathom the thought that another author would take her space, because there is none that can be as in depth as Sylvia was.

  3. Laleh says:

    She has developed a hatred for Germans. Thinking that every German is like her father. She compares herself to a person of Jewish decent. The vicitim of a hanous crime comitted by her father. She seems to tie her husband into this poem as well.

  4. Enola says:

    i think its a beautifuly written poem like the rest , and it did bring a tear or two to my eye when i read it, the last sentence just shows how much hurt she was… x x x x

  5. Jennifer says:

    Why is it when woman writes about her father there is a tie to her husband/boyfried, etc? Daddy is about her father, not Ted. It is clear in every stanza, the way it flows on and on with a rhythm that isn’t going to be interrupted with the intrusion of Ted. Any comparisons or allusions to Ted are just more unoriginal Freudian b-s from a reviewer who can’t conceive of a woman NOT writing about the man in her life.

  6. Rachel says:

    I’m currently researching Sylvia Plath for a senior English assignment and have decided to anylise “Daddy” as well as five other of Sylvia’s poems.

    Not only is Plath comparing her suffering to that of the Jews, I believe that deeper down she is trying to sort out her emotions concerning her father’s ethnic race. How would a child feel to hear about the horrific actions of the Nazis and know that her father is German? It is easy, especially for young people, to group all German’s together, need I remind you of the line “I thought every German was you.”

    I also would like to comment on Daddy from Russia’s inappropriate babble. I am from Australia and would just like to say that we have some of the worlds most intelligent people right here on our doorstep and i’m sorry to hear that your country did, infact, come second in the great arms race against America after WWII. Also, please keep your comments concerning Cancer and other incurable diseases to a disease forum as it is disgustingly inappropriate and inconsiderate. My grandfather and mother have both recently died from Cancer and let me tell you also that i am next in line and am insulted by your callis attitude.

  7. jamie mcginlay says:

    As an immense fan of plath’s work,
    having read it some number of times, i have to say that reading all poems once, is simply not enough.
    everytime read her poems seem to express more depth,
    thing you may not have picked up reading one for the first time around. daddy is one of my all time favrate poems ever!
    as a child my own mother suffured from depression also, so i know of such things first hand, or second as it were.
    i thing, though the poems speak of her betreyal by husban Ted Hughes and is also about her invarable relationship with her late father, it is also about her mothers betreyal and adultry expireance. this is very subtle and may well be seeing to much into things. though if you are so inclined to look into it, towards the end of the poem, the line (they always knew it was you) i thing speaks this subtle and not often acknowelaged issue.

  8. Mjaye Mazwi says:

    If the poem has one quality it is the ability to elude an easy interpretation. I would argue that “daddy” was to Sylvia Plath less a real being and much more a metaphor that she uses to rage against all the subtle ways the past can constrain our experience of the present.

  9. Jupiter Jonze says:

    Her father is the reason why she found Hughes. She knows that the other men in her past could and would not live up to the mythological archetype that her father created in her head, so because of this she hates him.

  10. Blondie says:

    This poem is really sad. She had such a hard time with her Dad and he died when she was 10. And she hated him sol much and compared him to Hitler, the Devil and a vampire that is horrible! and then she tried to kill herself at 20 years old and was only stuck together with glue in a way. She also met a guy that reminded her of her dad so she married him and lived with him for 7 years which is really sad. Her dad must have been a horrible man

  11. Kerri says:

    most likely-though we can never be certain unless she comes back from the grave-plath is first referring to her father in the poem and then hughes who she believed was an impersonation, clone of her daddy

  12. Israel says:

    i think that if the poem is to be about both Ted and her father, that they must have something in common. Did Ted have German ancestry or have something else in common with Otto?

    Overall, i think the poem is about her father, hence the title of the poem..i really enjoyed this poem, just like im enjoying her other works

  13. Diana says:

    This poemis about her emotional struggle. the point that she just wanted to trow everything out the window and let her anger out.

  14. polti n says:

    my dad will love it thanks

  15. Jessica Page says:

    breathtaking.absolutely one of the greatest poets of all time.

  16. Kelly 'lil' Bryan says:

    This poem has really brought out my sensitive side of me. All my life I have been working in harsh conditions, in the circus juggleing balls, all because my right shoulder was chopped off in the battle of YetiGoatFace(also known as gettysburg) in the civil war by a crazy quarter Jew, quarter Nazi, quarter flamingo, quarter samari. Ok, I was fighting a luaghing hyena when this cheap son of a blastard (flamingo samari warrior) chopped my arm off with his samari sword. So I turned around and blasted his head of with my bazooka. In the end, I feel like I can truly relate to this poem because of my feeling inferior to Josh Host I have been overly ready give up all competing right to him. THEREFORE JOSH WINS!!!

  17. Kelly Bry says:

    This poem has really brought out my sensitive side. I have been living all my life in a circus juggling with one arm because I lost my right arm…well basically I lost my right shoulder. It happened in the civil war when a quarter jew, quarter nazi, quarter samari warrior chopped my arm off in the battle of Gettysburg. I was fighting a laughing Hyena when all of the sudden the cheap blastard of a samari chopped my shoulder off from behind. So I blew his head off with a bazooka. In the end this trauma has made me feel inferior to Josh Hostetler and his double shoulder personality.

  18. Josh Host. says:

    I think that this poem is weird and only weirdo’s read it when they are not forced.

    YO. just kidding… i love it. It’s got soul.

  19. Jared says:

    Yea as i’ve heard from my Poetry teacher, her greatest works were created in her darkest and worst of times, the months leading up to her suicide. Her works are great, such raw emotion and talent

  20. Lenore says:

    Qtto who’s ancestral German name had been Platt was a professor of German and biology, (his specialty was bees) Otto became ill and was convinced it was cancer. He refused treatment because of the lack of a cure for cancer. His illness became so advanced it threatened his life. He discovered he had diabetes’s and had to have his leg amputated due to gangrene. ( This directly explains the German thoughts and the one shoe from the beginning of this poem.) Her living like a foot in this shoe reflects her grief with his passing. She was 8 years old when he died and obviously felt abandoned She was also suicidal for a vast majority of her life. As described in the “Bell Jar”. Her fathers death and life itself became a burden to her. She references her father and his bees in many poems. This is a huge part of her angst.
    The photo she describes is the only picture of her father she had. ( This is intensely described in the “Bell Jar”) As is the fact she was not allowed by her mother to attend the funeral or his gravesite. The poem then turns to her first suicide attempt which once again the “Bell Jar” is based upon. She then turns the poem towards Ted. She looked for the closest thing she could find to her father in a man. Someone to fill the grieving void. She trusted this would last forever. Although, she feared it would not. Abandonment seemed her greatest fear. She sowed this at times with jealousy. Sylvia discovered Ted’s affair with Assia via a phone call to him that she answered. She recognized the disguised voice on the other end of the line. This represents the line referring to the black phone. And the voice trying to worm through. The last lines refer to her giving up on both burdens I mentioned earlier.
    I have an annoying habit of reading various biographies of any writers I feel fit to do so to. I would recommend the “ Bell Jar” to anyone whom really admires this writer. I also would recommend looking into her life further after reading that. At that point all of her writings begin to make sense in accordance to her own life. Thank you for taking the time to read my comments.

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