Woman Loves Her Father, Every Woman Loves Term Paper

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Woman Loves her Father, Every Woman Loves a Fascist:

The Politics and Poetics of Despair in Plath's "Daddy"

Sylvia Plath is one of the most famous poets to emerge in the late 20th century. Partially due to the success of her autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, which details her partial recovery from suicidal depression, Plath's poetry has been frequently analyzed through the lens of her clinical mental problems. "Dying is An Art," the critic George Steiner titles of his essay on Plath, referring not only to a line from her poem "Lady Lazarus" but the critical elision of the poet's personal suicidal depression with the source of her confessional poetic gift. For instance, Plath's masterpiece, "Daddy," is a dramatic monologue in the voice of a German woman whose father was a Nazi. Yet despite the 'assumed' nature of "Daddy's" voice and the apparent divergence of poet from the speaker, the poem is still often interpreted as a poem in a lyric, confessional voice.

There is some justice to this approach. Plath's own German heritage and her difficult relationship with her own father, who died at an early age, makes the highly personal interpretation of this poem often given by critics seem more justified. The poem is more complex than a pure confessional, however. "Daddy" does attempt to create an analogy between the personal depression and despair of the poet that has caused her to embark upon unfulfilling and controlling relationships with men and a larger historical injustice of violence inflicted upon oppressed people and women. Ultimately, however, the end of the poem locates the work in the individual speaker's unique personal despair and inner, rather than outer political conflicts.

Every woman loves a fascist," writes the speaker of "Daddy." (Line 48) The poet chronicles the physical details she remembers of her father, the boots, the uniform, and speaks of herself as a disappointment to him. She states that she must be a "bit of a Jew," both allying herself with the individuals whom her father killed, yet also stating that she seeks out her father again and again in the men whom she becomes involved with. (Line 40) "I thought even the bones would do." (Line 60) The historical oppression that the speaker of "Daddy's" father inflicted upon others the speaker now inflicts upon her own sense of self, through her own relationships with men.
The physical suffering endured by Jews is now replicated in the speaker's own, personal life through her own hands and the hands of other men instead of at the hands of a paternal jailer.

However, one must be careful of bestowing a "fatal" and purely personal "glamour" to use the words of Irving Howe, upon these parallels with Plath's own life and her poetry. The choice of an assumed Nazi confessional rather than a purely personal confessional suggests that Plath is aware that the prison she has created has roots in a larger social structure of oppression against women. Even Plath's own autobiographical fiction begins with an analogy between the speaker's depression and eventual treatment with electroshock therapy and the hotness of the summer Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed. The shocks that kill the couple also assault the mind of the sensitive, confused poet Esther. Plath draws parallels from a highly personal experience, namely the loss of her father and her seeking out relationships with powerful and controlling men such as Ted Hughes with a historical phenomenon, namely the destruction of an entire people's physical and social existence because of the glamour of fascism.

The fatal attraction of fascism is made explicit in "Daddy" with the statement "I used to pray to recover you," (Line 14) as well as the poem's detailing of the horrible beauty of German things such as "Where it pours bean green over blue / In the waters off beautiful Nauset." (Line 11-12) Yet the speaker also states as early as Line 6, "Daddy, I have had to kill you." She avows her hated of the German language as well. Unfortunately, despite her identification with the Jews,….....

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