Psychoanalytic Analysis using Sylvia Plath’s DADDY Poem

1. Introduction


O’Reilly (2004, pg. 355) states that Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963) was born in Boston on 27 October 1932. She wasthe first child of Otto Plath and his secondwife, Aurelia Schober. Otto Plath was a dominant patriarchal presence in the household. It seemed that Plath inherited her mother’s strong idealism, self-improvement spirit and, probably, an immigrant’s sense of the precariousness of worldly success, a sense of its having to be continually renewed and bolstered.
The Daddypoetry was written by Plath in 1962. It is in fact Plath’s tirade towards her father who had deserted her. It resembles to a Freudian drama of the repetition-compulsion where the speaker resurrects her vampiric father just to kill him again, a wrong deed done to delete the real source of her psychological pain. 
In Plath’s poetry and prose, her father was hersymbol of absence. For Plath, the fact  signifies the impossibility of lasting love, of God, or of any real meaningsin life. His death was a shock for Plath from which she neverproperly recovered (O’Reilly, 2004, pg. 356).

2. Theoretical Framework


2.1.      Elements of Poetry

            According to www.oxforddictionaires.com, poetry is literary work where one expresses his or her feelings and ideas in an intensity by distinctivestyles and rhythms. As a literary work, a poem possesses its own elements, three of which are discussed below.

2.1.1.   Connotations

            In reading a poem, one can not always depend on denotations to understand the poem. Words have connotations as well, that is associations and implications of words. They come from ways and contexts where they are used and associations that people make with them. (Thorne, 2006, pg. 48)  

2.1.2.   Figurative Language

            Figurative language (figures of speech) takes form of words with additional meanings apart from their literal meanings. They are highly related to the poem’s theme and the poet’s ideas in the poem. Furthermore, figures of speech enable the poet to say something in terms of something else. They enrich the semantic possibilities in a poem due to the creation of images with double functions: representatives of physical experiences and thematic signposts. (Thorne, 2006, pg. 74 – 75)

2.1.3.   Theme

Theme is the main or the central idea of a literary work which could be a moral message. However, a theme is usually not very clear in fictions, meaning that it can also benot a moral message. It could be what the story’s events add up to or what the story itself is all about. Kennedy & Gioia (2010:222) 

2.2.      Psychoanalytic Theory

According to Barry (2009, pg. 92), Psychoanalytic, one of the literary criticisms, uses some psychoanalysis techniques to interpret a literary work. Psychoanalysis, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, is a therapy to cure mental disorders through investigations ininteractionsbetweenconscious and unconscious elements in one’s mind. The theory was developed by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939).

2.2.1.   Attachment Disorder  

Attachment disorder takes part of the Psychoanalysis. Brenda McCreight, Ph.D. on www.theadoptioncounselor.comstates that attachment disorder is a longterm psychiatric condition. It is manifestedby somenegative behaviours if one can not bond with a stable caregiver.

A child develops an attachment disorder when the attachment order processis interrupted. The interruptions can be experiences of having multiple caregivers or denied attachment order processesdue topoor quality, chronically inconsistent, or violent parenting.Thus,the child’sbrain concentrateson developing survival skills rather thanrelationship skills. It results in a child knowing only how to survive by manipulations, controls, aggressions, or  withdrawals. The child spends the childhoodfeeling abandoned, not understanding at all how to belong to, or to trust, a parent figure.

2.4.      Biography of Sylvia Plath’s

            O’Reilly (2004, pg. 355) states that Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963) was born in Boston, U.S.A., on 27 October 1932. She was the first child of Otto Plath and his second wife, Aurelia Schober. Otto Plath was a dominant patriarchal presence in the household. It seemed that Plath inherited her mother’s strong idealism, self-improvement spirit and, probably, an immigrant’s sense of the precariousness of worldly success, a sense of its having to be continually renewed and bolstered.

The Daddypoetry was written by Plath in 1962. It is in fact Plath’s tirade towards her father who had deserted her. It resembles to a Freudian drama of the repetition-compulsion where the speaker resurrects her vampiric father just to kill him again, a wrong deed done to delete the real source of her psychological pain. InPlath’s poetry and prose, her father was her symbol of absence. For Plath, the fact  signifies the impossibility of lasting love, of God, or of any real meaningsin life. His death was a shock for Plath from which she neverproperly recovered. (O’Reilly, 2004, pg. 356). One day, at a party in Cambridge in February 1956, Plath met a young English poet, Ted Hughes. The couple married in four months afterwards in a ceremony in London on June 16th 1956. Nevertheless, in the early autumn of 1962, Plath and Hughes separated acrimoniously. She discovered that Hughes was in fact having an affair with Assia Wevill, the wife of a young Canadian poet named David Wevill.After the separation, Plath entered the most productive phase. From September to December 1962, Plathproduced forty lyric poems of immense power (including Daddywriter), during which she often wrote two in a day. (O’Reilly, 2006, pg. 357).

3. Analysis


3.1.      Textual Analysis

            This former section of the analysis consists of the analysis conducted based on some elements in a poetry. Those elements are the connotations, figurative languages and theme. The textual analysis is conducted in order to define the Psychoanalytic elements found in the poetry.
3.1.1.   Connotations

            The former and latter connotations are located in the premier stanza of the poetry. They are represented by the words white in the line For thirty years, poor and white and achoo in the line Barely daring to breath or achoo. The term whiterepresents the color of the skin of the poet’s, Sylvia Plath, herself while she was still alive and the term achoo is a sound produced out of a sneezing activity.
            The third connotation is situated in the fourth stanza of the poetry. It is represented by the term the German tongue in the line In the German tongue. The term means the ability of the poet of using the German language in praying for the health improvement of her father.      The poetry has the following connotation in its fifth stanza. The connotation is represented by the clause Where you put your foot, your root in the lines So I never could tell where you put your foot, your root. By the clause, the poet wishes to signify that she never knew where her father was born.
            Moreover, the poetry presents the next two connotations in the next stanza. The first one is represented by the expression a barb wire snare in the lines I never could talk to you / The tongue stuck in my jaw / It stuck in a barb wire snare. Through the expression, the poet wishes to convey the meaning of an extremely sharp look addressed by her father to her. The second connotation is represented by the expression Ich, ich, ich, ichsituated underneath the It stuck in a barb wire snare line. The expression is in reality German meaning I in English. The poet and her father spoke German at that time and the poet does the ich expression repeatedly in order to show that she never could speak to her father for he was very severe.
            The seventh connotation is situated in the seventh stanza of the poetry. It is represented through the expression chuffing me off in the lines An engine, an engine / Chuffing me off like a Jew. The expression is used by the poet in order to illustrate how her father used to give her a hard time like a someone Jewish.
            Furthermore, the next connotation is visible in the twelfth stanza of the poetry. It is presented through the bit my heart in two expression underneath the Any less the black man who line. The poet employs the expression mentioned to convey the meaning of disappointment that her father had caused her. 
            The ninth and tenth connotations are in the thirteenth stanza. They both are represented through the expressions pulled me out of the sack in the But they pulled me out of the sack line and stuck me together with glue in the And they stuck me together with glueline. The poet uses the former connotation to signify that people restrained her not to reunite with her father by committing a suicide and the latter to signify that people gave her pieces of their minds not to do the same thing ever again and move on with her life.   
            The next couple of connotations are represented by the expressions I do, I doand The vampire. Both of them are situated in different stanzas. The I do, I do connotation are in the fourteenth stanza, in the second line sounding And I said I do, I do. It entails the poet’s sorrow being forced by her father to always agree on everything he said. On the other hand, the the vampireconnotation is readable in the second line of the following stanza, the fifteenth one. By the term, the poet wishes to convey to the readers how violent her father was towards her.            
            The poem presents its last two connotations in the last two stanzas, the fifteenth and sixteenth stanzas. The two connotations take form in the expression drank my blood in the And drank my blood for a year line in the fifteenth stanza and the term the stake in the There’s a stake in your fat black heart line in the final stanza. The former connotation is employed by the poet to express the pain that her father had caused her while he was still alive whereas the latter one is employed to show the arrogance of her father’s.      
3.1.2.   Figurative Languages

            There are 6 figurative languages used in the poem. There are metaphors, similes, metonimies, symbols and hyperboles. Each of them contribute to the theme as well as both Psychoanalytic and Feminist elements in the poem and will be elaborated below.
  
3.1.2.1 Metaphors

            The premier metaphor is visible in the premier stanza. It takes form of the term ghastly statue in the Ghastly statue with one gray toe line. The poet implicitly compares her father with a ghastly statue for he looked for horrible when he was dead.
            The second metaphor is found in the seventh stanza. It is represented by the expression An engine, an engine in the An engine, an engine / Chuffing me off like a Jew lines. The poet implicitly compares her German father with an engine to express that he was a hard man towards her and the poet dislikes the fact that her father used to treat her hard.
            The next metaphor can be seen in the tenth stanza. It is represented by the expression not God in the Not God, but a swastika line. God is loving, caring, tender and many other good things. The poet’s father, on the contrary, did not use to be like that, triggering her to implicitly compare him with God.      
            The fourth metaphor is readable in the fifteenth stanza. It takes form of the term the vampire in the If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two / The vampire who said he was you lines. A vampire is someone devil and evil and the poet implicitly compares her father with it for he was evil, hence resembling much to a vampire.  
3.1.2.2 Similes

            The premier simile is visible in the premier stanza. It takes form of the term like a shoe in the lines You do not do anymore, black shoe, in which I have lived like a foot. The poet explicitly compares herself with a foot inside a black shoe for she had been living with her violent father who was accustomed to wearing a pair of black shoes for a certain period of time at the moment. 
The latter and third similes are found in the second stanza. The first is represented by the term marble-heavyin the Marble-heavy, a bag full of God. The poet uses the simile for her father weighted as heavy as marble. The second is represented by the expression Big as a Fresco seal. The poet uses the simile for her father was as big as a Fresco seal.  
The next simile can be read in the seventh stanza. It takes form of the expression Chuffing me off like a Jewin the An engine, an engine / Chuffing me off like a Jew lines. The poet explicitly compares herself with a Jew for her father, who was German and whom she implicitly compares with an engine due to his hardness, used to give her hard time, like what a German was doing to a Jew at the moment.  
3.1.2.3 Metonimies

            The premier metonymy is visible in the premier stanza. It takes form of the term black shoe in the lines You do not do, you do not do anymore, black shoe. The metonymy is categorized as an object for a user and the poet employs it for her father used to wear a pair of black shoes. 
            The second metonymy can be found in the tenth stanza. It is represented by the term a swastika in the Not God, but a swastika line. The metonymy is categorized in the Object for a user category. The poet utilizes the metonymy was a German and at that time, a German was associated with a swastika, a symbol of Nazi’s.
            The next metonymy is readable in the twelfth stanza. It takes form of the expression I thought even the bones would do in the At twenty, I tried to die / And get back, back, back to you / I thought even the bones would do lines. The metonymy is categorized in the A part of a whole category and is employed by the poet that she desperately wanted to reunite with her father once more.   
3.1.2.4 Symbols

            The first symbol is visible in the premier stanza. It takes form of the terms black shoe and a foot in the You do not do, you do not do anymore, black shoe / In which I have lived like a foot lines. The poet uses the term black shoe to symbolize one controlling one else’s freedom and life and a footto symbolize one powerless whose freedom used to be controlled.
            The second symbol can be found in the seventh stanza. It is represented by the expression an engine in the An engine, an engine / Chuffing me off like a Jew lines. The poet utilizes the term an engine to symbolize someone powerful, capable of doing something.
            The next symbol is clear in the tenth stanza. It takes form of the term a swastika in the Not God, but a swastika line. The poet employs the term a swastika to symbolize the meanness of Germans who were mean to people at the moment.
            The third and fourth symbols are in the thirteenth stanza. Both of them are represented by the terms sack and glue in the But they pulled me out of the sack / And they stuck me together with glue lines. The poet utilizes the term sack to symbolize a narrowness or a darkness and the term glueto symbolize solidity.          
            The last symbol is visible in the last stanza. It takes form of the term the stake in the There’s a stake in your fat black heart line. The poet uses the term the stake to symbolize the arrogance that her father had while he was still living.
3.1.2.5 Hyperboles

            The premier hyperbole is visible in the premier stanza. It takes form of the lines In which I have lived like a foot / For thirty years, poor and white / Barely daring to breathe or achoo. The exaggeration occurs for the white-skinned poet has lived feeling oppressed for thirty years with her mean father.
            The second hyperbole is found in the fifth stanza. It is represented by the expressions The tongue stuck in my jaw and It stuck in a barb wire snare in the I never could talk to you / The tongue stuck in my jaw / It stuck in a barb wire snare lines. The initial exaggeration is used for the poet had never been capable of speaking to her violent father every time she tried to. The poet uses the second exaggeration for her father used to stop her from talking to him using a sharp look from his eyes.
            The next hyperbole is in the fifteenth stanza. It takes form of the expression Who drank my blood for a year in the The vampire who said he was you / Who drank my blood for a yearlines. Having implicitly compared her father’s evilness with a vampire, the poet employs the exaggeration to illustrate the pain that he caused her for a very long time.

3.1.3.   Theme
            The theme of the Daddy poem by Sylvia Plath is a hatred of a daughter from ordeals. In this poem, the ordeals were executed by the poet’s father, Otto Plath. The poet’s hatred as well as the poet’s father’s ordeal towards the poet shall be elaborated below.
The poet’s hatred can be seen in the entire first stanza in which the term black shoe that the poet uses symbolizes her father, a human who used to control her freedom and life and a hyperbole coming afterwards. It can also be seen in the first two lines of the second stanza, denotative lines in which the poet regrets why she did not kill her father instead while she still had time to do so. In addition, the poet’s hatred towards her father is also expressed in the tenth stanza, to be more accurate in the first and last lines of it in which the poet states that her father was not loving, tender and caring, associates him with the meanness symbol of the Germans and calls him brute. The poet also calls her father no more than a devilish man who disappointed her in stanza eleven. Finally, the poet’s hatred is terminated in the last stanza in which she symbolically calls her father’s heart evil using the term black, denotatively calls him bastard and literally says that she no longer wants to see him ever again forever.       
            The ordeal of the poet’s father, on the other hand, can be seen right from stanza one in which he had always severely controlled his daughter life and freedom. In the sixth stanza, he is clearly seen to have been very mean to his daughter that she never could talk to him, enough for him just to address her a severely mean look from his eyes before his daughter did so. Furthermore, in the next stanza, it is visible how he often put his daughter in difficult times and how physically scary he used to be for his daughter as described in the ninth stanza. In stanza fourteen, the poet described him to have always forced her to do whatever he wanted.
3.2.      Attachment Disorder in The Poem

            Sylvia Plath was a poet with a lot of pain caused by her own biological father, Otto Plath. While Otto was still alive, he himself was a dominant patriarchal figure in the Plaths. His severity and ignore addressed to Sylvia finally made her detest him so much and express her hatred through the Daddy poem. In Plath’s poetry and prose, her father was a symbol of absence, entailingthe impossibility of lasting love, of God, or of any real meaningsin life.
The poet’s hatred can be seen in the entire first stanza in which the term black shoe that the poet uses symbolizes her father, a human who used to control her freedom and life and a hyperbole coming afterwards. It can also be seen in the first two lines of the second stanza, denotative lines in which the poet regrets why she did not kill her father instead while she still had time to do so. In addition, the poet’s hatred towards her father is also expressed in the tenth stanza, to be more accurate in the first and last lines of it in which the poet states that her father was not loving, tender and caring, associates him with the meanness symbol of the Germans and calls him brute. The poet also calls her father no more than a devilish man who disappointed her in stanza eleven. Finally, the poet’s hatred is terminated in the last stanza in which she symbolically calls her father’s heart evil using the term black, denotatively calls him bastard and literally says that she no longer wants to see him ever again forever.      

4. Conclusion


Sylvia Plath was a poet with a lot of pain caused by her own biological father, Otto Plath. His severity and ignore addressed to Sylvia finally made her detest him so much and express her hatred through the Daddy poem. There are two kinds of analysis which can be analyzed from the poem: Psychoanalytic (specified as the Attachment Disorder) and Feminist (specified as the Second Wave Feminism) analysis.
The first element is the Psychoanalytic analysis. The analysis is furthermore specified as the Attachment Disorder analysis. Attachment Disorder is a condition in which one did not get proper and sufficient affection in his or her childhood due to a number of motifs. One of those motifs is the violent parenting and it is what Plath underwent during her childhood with her father, Otto Plath. All the bad memories resulting from her father’s violent parenting did not seem to be capable of leaving her, accumulating into a hatred as time went by and finally triggering her to channel it through the Daddy poem. The poet’s hatred can be seen in the entire first stanza in which the term black shoe that the poet uses symbolizes her father, a human who used to control her freedom and life and a hyperbole coming afterwards. It can also be seen in the first two lines of the second stanza, denotative lines in which the poet regrets why she did not kill her father instead while she still had time to do so. In addition, the poet’s hatred towards her father is also expressed in the tenth stanza, to be more accurate in the first and last lines of it in which the poet states that her father was not loving, tender and caring, associates him with the meanness symbol of the Germans and calls him brute. The poet also calls her father no more than a devilish man who disappointed her in stanza eleven. Finally, the poet’s hatred is terminated in the last stanza in which she symbolically calls her father’s heart evil using the term black, denotatively calls him bastard and literally says that she no longer wants to see him ever again forever.

 

5. Bibliography


Barry, P. (2009). Beginning theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. United Kingdom: Manchester University Press.
Kennedy, X.J. & Gioia, D. (2010). Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing. United States: Pearson, Longman.
McCreight, B. (2011). Attachment Disorder and The Adoptive Family. Retrieved May, 2013, from www.theadoptioncounselor.com.
O’Reilly, C. (2004). Sylvia Plath.The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature, pg. 355
– 362, Vol. 3, ed. By Jay Parini. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Plath, S. (1962). Daddy. Retrieved May, 2013, from http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15291
Thorne, S. (2006). Mastering Poetry. New York, United States: Palgrave Macmillan.

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/poetry?q=poetry

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