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.

67 Comments

  1. Eva says:

    I understand the whole poem except de lines where she say:

    “The snows of the Tyrol, the cler beer of Vienna
    Are not very pure, or true”

    What does this mean? Does it symbolise her mother from Austria? Tyrol is an alpine region in Austria, and Vienna the capital. This idiotic symbolism is the only one i can imagine. Someone here who have understood those sentences?

  2. Daniel Haney says:

    Has anyone noticed the “anti-Christ” images in this poem? Line 46 includes the words “Not God”-i.e. anti-God, anti-Christ to allude to whatever authoritative male figure she has in mind; In lines 55-56 and 73 there is a “black man” (55) who partakes in a perverse “communion” when he bites the speaker’s “pretty red heart in two” (56) and “[drinks] [her] blood for a year” (73); and in numerous lines 31-35, 43-48, and 65 (to name a few) there are allusions to Adolf Hitler–the man many believed was THE “anti-Christ” Just thought I’d share that little tangent

  3. jui says:

    daddy is a poem written when hitler of germany was on his peak of torturing people by disguisting techniques.here daddy is referred to hitler and his harresments. plath being his sufferer in one or the other ways has very bad image of his. she is suffocated in his rule so she reffers it to be a smelly shoe. she had suffered in a young age so she wanted to kill him but unfortunately he commited suiside{as per the book landmarks of 20th century world history by hussain naqui)and plath missed a chance to kill him.she expresses her frustration in the last line by adderessing hitlrt sa a bastard.in all the poem reflects the mental or psychological impact of hitler’s rule.

  4. Stacey says:

    Does anybody know the month and year this poem was published?

  5. Staci says:

    This poem is exquisite! I love the diction that Plath uses. Although this poem is quite disturbing and upsetting, I love the drama and the hatred. I am a very appealing person.

  6. nona says:

    The reference to “the black telephone’s off at the root” is a symbol of her disconnecting to reality and to this world”, her way of turning her back on these memories.

  7. john says:

    elle, for someone who has a degree you say some remarkably stupid things, this is a forum where you discuss and voice ideas even if they seem wrong, that is the whole point. to openly insult someone else is moronic, you actually suck the big willy.

  8. Michael says:

    First, I’d say this poem is striking- it’s tone and rhythm really build up an atmosphere of anger which is so uncomfortably intense that I almost feel I’m intruding. Such deep, candid emotions are actually (in my opinion), rarely seen in 20th century poetry in such a stark way. The unusual public fascination with Plath’s life (not given to many other poets) makes the poem easier to make sense of and somehow more emotionally accessible, as we know exactly what emotional damage she had sustained (and, of course the irony of us knowing her ultimate fate).
    I’d also say that I think it’s a real shame that people post half-baked and, even worse, badly written comments on here. This website is a great idea and I’ve yet to find a similar one for all poetry with the possibility of posting comments. At least the humorous ones make for light-reading, especially the purple alien one which actually made me chuckle, but there’s a lot of badly thought out stuff on here, probably as a result of people’s ignorance and lack of intelligence really. I think these guys are out of their depth here- back to Roald Dahl, people!
    Anyhoo, e-mail me if you’re in London and are interested in discussing this kind of stuff.

  9. Genevieve StClaire says:

    I do not BELIEVE some of these comments. “Elle” BRAGS about her double (dble) degree in English & Psychology, and denigrates a 14 year old (? how does she know the age?) for her “not graspoing the English language”, while her own comments are replte with English errors in spelling, grammar ans capitalizations. Talk about being BLIND to yourself!! Maybe she should have concentrated on ONE major, and definitely neither one of those two, ’cause she sucks at both. She confuses inappropriate & base insults ad hominem with good criticism and slams “misuse” of the language by Jennifer with an atrociously written polemic. Bah.
    Oh – and she reeks with unjustified and unjustifiable arrogance. I side with Jennifer. Go, girl.
    Incidentally, I never saw so many gross mistakes in the writing of comments devoted to a poem in the English language, and so much misinformation and misinterpretation, as in what I just read. YAAAWN.
    Genevieve from the US

  10. Pip says:

    A collage of childhood images of the father, a single shoe, the accent, the foreign phrases, and the legacy of living with a fear of sickness leading to death, afraid to even sneeze. The pain of the child’s unresolved grief, not permitted to say goodbye or have closure, abandoned and insecure. The feeling of that the body has somehow been lost and is just missing and needs to be found and put back together. Later in therapy, an image of the father is sculpted, to facilitate dialogue with the father, and perhaps a trip to Germany or Poland is taken, to trace the family roots, finding familiarity in the accents and names, but no direct connection with the father. The trip is an attempt to bring closure, but it is the train ride, so evocative of the images of Jews and Gypsies going to the camps, that provides the key to bring closure. The child ‘demonizes’ the father as the Nazi, thus justifying her anger at the abandonment of death and enabling her to ‘kill’ the demon and it’s hold upon her life and emotions. Grief and abandonment looms again at the death of her marriage and evokes her earlier grief, as she struggles once more to ‘kill’ the new demon of abandonment and release it’s 7-year grip on her heart, mind and energies.

  11. Katie Leigh says:

    This poem “DADDY” shows how much she really did hate her dad. And that he must have done something to make her feel this way and that is what she is trying to tell everyone!

  12. Mark says:

    Amber, please realize that the Nazis persecuted the Jews. Not the Germans.

  13. Diane says:

    In the 10th stanza she says “Not God but a swastika” what does this mean? This is obviously referencing her father but I do not understand the meaning behind it. Is she just using a visual symbol to reiterate her feelings toward her father to the reader?

  14. Elle says:

    Jessica,

    ‘Plath did not have major problems with her husband’.

    Um, yes she did. In fact, he was already having an affair with a woman he later married, when Plath wrote this.

    The line ‘coming through the telephone(sic)’ is rumouredly a reference to overhearing her husband’s lover on the telephone.

    Do you actually know anything about Plath or have you just seen the movie and think you do? Incidentally, the film was not endorsed by Plath’s family who hated it enough to prevent the studio using any of Plath’s poems in the film. That fact alone, should give you an answer as to how accurate the film is.

    Elle

  15. Jessica Lynn Harris says:

    Sylvia’s father died when she was 8 years old. Despite the first impression of the poem “Daddy”, Plath adorded her father and did not have major problems with her husband.

    Sylvia was upset that she did not get to say goodbye to her father before he died.

    We must look beyond the immediate impressions of the poem’s lyrics before understanding it.

  16. priyanka says:

    the line in the poem ‘I thought every German was like you’ is in the past tense hinting that probably its abt her entrapment by’ and then triumph over the past, the demons in her past. I HTINK like many poets, she creates personal myths that express most powerfully her sense of reality- the jew and german relatoinship is a very powerful myth she uses.

  17. Yelly says:

    I cannot say how much I love this poem. I know it is bout what she says, her father. But to me, it is about many men I have known. My favorite part is, “…every woman adores a Facist, the boot in the face, the brute, Brute heart of a brute like you…” I sweat, that is it in a shell. I could go on forever about how I understand that line….this is a fabulous poem GREAT and if anyone else has opinions to share with me, please do!

  18. Grant says:

    This poem is about Sylvia finally letting go of all her hurtfull memories of her father. she constintly compares her father to her husband, thus at the end of the poem stating how she has lost all trust and love for all men universaly. when she says how she killed her father, she is saying how she has killed her memories of him. It is important to realize her father was not a nazi. please feel free to send any quiestion and statments to [email protected]

    Thank you Grant

  19. Elle says:

    Hey Jennifer!

    Get an education! There are several references to Sylvia’s husband, Ted Hughes, in the poem, all of them to obvious to be coincidental or Freudian. For example,

    ‘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.’

    and then later

    ‘If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two –
    The vampire who said he was you’

    Syliva was venting her distrust of men, because she had been adbandoned by both the prominent male figures in her life. First, the father who died prematurely and later, her husband who cheated on her and left her in poverty for another woman. The line about the telephone can also be read as a reference to hearing her husband’s mistress on the phone. I could go on, but I’de be typing for ages when all you really need to do is get a proper education rather than accusing people that DO have an education of reading well-read poet’s work with Freudian overtones. And for the record, I have a dgree with a double major in both English and Psychology so don’t bother any lame come-backs about what constitues Freudian and what doesn’t. I’ve got more answers than I care to give and I’m not about to waste my time on some fourteen year old that can’t even grasp the english language, much less interpret poetry.

    Elle
    xxx

  20. amber says:

    i think the jew and german thing is a metaphor. jews are persecuted for their beleifs and germans were the ones doing the persecuting. i think plath felt like an outsider due to her dad’s actions and the way she felt she was treated but i do not think it was completely literal that she was jew and he was a nazi!

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