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Critical Analysis of Poetry by Sylvia Plath: Daddy and Lady Lazarus

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The use of brutal and venomous tones us in the poem as would praise of its unadulterated rage towards male dominance, to wariness at its usage of holocaust imagery. These tones are present in the entire poem “Daddy”.

In the poem “Daddy” Plath sees that she explains how her life is as she lives with her decease father and how it is for her. Plath starts with “does not do anymore,” and that she feels like she has been a “foot living in a black shoe for thirty years”, too timid to either breath or sneeze. Plath insists that she needed to kill him referring to her “Daddy”, but he died before she had time. Plath describes him as heavy, like a “bag full of God,” resembling a statue with one big gray toe and its head submerged in the Atlantic Ocean. Plath remembers how she at on time prayed for his return from death and gives a German utterance of grief which translates literally to “oh, you”.

Plath knows he comes from a Polish town that was overrun by “wars, wars, wars,” but one of her Polack friends has told her that there are several towns of that names. Therefore, she cannot uncover his hometown, where he put his “foot” and “root.” Plath also discusses how she could never find a way to talk to him. Even before she could speak, she thought every German was him, and found the German language ‘obscene.’ In fact, she felt so distinct from him that she believed herself a Jew being removed to a concentration camp.

She started to talk like a Jew and to feel like a Jew in several different ways. She wonders in fact, whether she might be a Jew, because of her similarity to a gypsy. To further emphasize her fear and distance, she describes him as the Luftwaffe, with a neat mustache and a bright blue Aryan eye. She calls him a ‘Panzer-man,’ and says he is less like God then like the black swastika through which nothing can pass. In her mind, ‘Every woman adores a Fascist,’ and the ‘boot in the face’ that comes with such a man.

When she remembers Daddy, she thinks of him standing at the blackboard, with a cleft chin instead of a cleft foot. However, this transposition does not make him a devil. Instead, he is like the black man who ‘Bit pretty red heart in two'(Schultz). He died when she was ten, and she tried to join him in death when she was twenty.

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When that attempt failed, she was glued back together. At this point, she realized her course – she made a model of Daddy and gave him both a ‘Minicamp look’ and ‘a love of the rack and the screw’ (Schultz). She promises him that she is ‘finally through;’ the telephone has been taken off the hook, and the voices can no longer get through to her.

She considers that if she has killed one man, then she has in fact killed two. Comparing him to a vampire, she remembers how he drank her blood for a year, but then realizes the duration was closer to seven years. She tells him he can lie back now. There is a stake in his heart, and the villagers who despised him now celebrate his death by dancing on his corpse. She concludes by announcing, ‘Daddy, Daddy, you bastard, I’m through’ (Schultz).

‘Lady Lazarus’ is a poem written by Sylvia Plath, originally included in Ariel, which was published in 1965, two years after her death by suicide. This poem is commonly used as an example of her writing style. Poems like “Lady Lazarus” is one of her most known and is known for the faithful representation of her characters and the tone of the book. “Lady Lazarus’ is a poem commonly understood to be about suicide. She believes that ‘Dying Is an art, like everything else,’ and that she does it very well (Bawer).

The speaker of ‘Lady Lazarus,’ indeed, “brags darkly about her prowess at such attempts ‘I do it so it feels real’, marvels at her survival of her attempt” at age twenty and of a near-fatal ‘accident’ a decade earlier (Bawer). Plath uses “internal rhyme from poems such as ‘Lady Lazarus,’ where we find combinations like ‘grave cave’ and ‘large charge.”” (Schultz). “Lady Lazarus”, one of those poems that has been criticized for being self-congratulatory, self-centered and petulant.

She writes her stories over a couple of days ““Lady Lazarus”, is written across a period of several days, starting with 17 October and finishing on Plath’s birthday, 27 October” (Peel). Plath writes about her life and how she is “like a cat” when she says she has nine lives. For some readers “Lady Lazarus” is a poem celebrating female survival and resurrection” (Peel).

Work Cited

  1. Bawer, Bruce. ‘Sylvia Plath and the Poetry of Confession.’ Poetry Criticism, edited by Elisabeth Gellert, vol. 37, Gale, 2002. Literature Resource Center, http://link.gale.com/apps/doc/H1420039643/GLS?u=j101912034&sid=GLS&xid=315b730e. Accessed 5 Nov. 2019. Originally published in The New Criterion, vol. 9, no. 6, Feb. 1991, pp. 18-27.
  2. Schultz, Jerrianne. ‘Perfection and Reproduction: Mutually Exclusive Expectations for Women in Sylvia Plath’s ‘Edge.’.’ Poetry Criticism, edited by Elisabeth Gellert, vol. 37, Gale, 2002. Literature Resource Center, http://link.gale.com/apps/doc/H1420039651/GLS?u=j101912034&sid=GLS&xid=95c88f47. Accessed 5 Nov. 2019. Originally published in English Language Notes, vol. 37, no. 2, Dec. 1999, pp. 68-75.
  3. “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath-poems | Academy of American Poets https://poets.org/poem/daddy
  4. “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath – https://www.poetryfoundation.org

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Critical Analysis of Poetry by Sylvia Plath: Daddy and Lady Lazarus. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-poetry-by-sylvia-plath-daddy-and-lady-lazarus/
“Critical Analysis of Poetry by Sylvia Plath: Daddy and Lady Lazarus.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-poetry-by-sylvia-plath-daddy-and-lady-lazarus/
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Critical Analysis of Poetry by Sylvia Plath: Daddy and Lady Lazarus [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-poetry-by-sylvia-plath-daddy-and-lady-lazarus/
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