Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” is a poem about a daughter describing her feelings for her deceased father. This poem could be about the author’s father, as she’s also lost her dad at a young age. But rather than focusing on her relationship with, or her feelings for her father, it would be more interesting to talk about having Hitler as a father. Although it’s not directly stated in the poem, there are certain references to Hitler and his reign of terror. A lot of things have already been written about him, from his childhood to his death, especially on his horrible crimes against humanity. But despite all that, not a lot is known about the intimate details of his life. One could only assume what it was like having Hitler as a relative, especially if he’s the paternal figure that a kid would grow up with and look up to. The theme of the poem is having Hitler as a father, and from the poem, it seems that it is a very complicated relationship. There’s a conflict between feelings of animosity and attachment, of hatred and love.
Even from the start of the poem, it is already evident that having Hitler as a father is quite complicated. The opening stanza states immediately tells the readers that it was a restrictive relationship, like a foot stuck in a shoo “for thirty years, poor and white, barely daring to breathe or Achoo (Plath).” From the first stanza alone, one could understand that having a powerful man for a father could really take a toll on one’s freedom.
But having Hitler play the paternal role in one’s life would also mean that there’s a great deal of admiration for such a man. The statement “every woman adores a Fascist, the boot in the face, the brute, brute heart of a brute like you,” shows that it’s hard not to look up to a powerful man like Hitler (Plath). For a child of Hitler, the abuse and the torment that he or she may receive from his or her father is overwhelmed by his achievements, or by his stature as a man who could possibly rule the world.
At the end of the day, having Hitler as a father would always be a frightening experience and an inescapable fact. One stanza states that the author has always been afraid of her father. But unfortunately, the presence of her father overwhelms her. Hitler is “not God but a swastika so black no sky could squeak through (Plath).” Hitler is a symbol of authority, and his power transcends even that of a god or a deity. He’s a real person who can inflict real damage and pose real threats. His child would surely fear him more than anything else, even more than his fear of God.
But again, having Hitler as a father really complicates things. It would be impossible for that child not hold him in high regard. That could clearly affect a child’s perspective. Even when Hitler is gone, his hold on the emotions of his child would still be very great. Despite all the fear and all the hatred that he’s brought upon his offspring, Hitler would always be remembered even after he passes on. This is evident in the poem, when the author said, “I was ten when they buried you. At twenty I tried to die and get back, back, back at you (Plath).” This only means that even for the ten short years of living with a man like Hitler, the impact on the child’s life is so great that death was a welcomed idea to reunite with her father. Also, Hitler’s death left a gaping hole in his child’s heart. Because of this, she was forced to seek someone who could fill that void, someone that’s very much similar to her father.
Indeed, having Hitler as a father is really complicated. Sylvia Plath’s poem “Daddy” is a testament to this complication, although she wasn’t really talking about Hitler. For the author, her father is very much like Hitler, because with him, she felt love, hatred, attachment, and animosity. In the end, she looked for someone like her dad, but then she realized that it was a very bad decision. She had to “kill” her dad and her husband from her life and from her memories so that she could finally move on and live a fuller life.
Plath, Sylvia. “Daddy.” Ariel: Poems by Sylvia Plath. Faber and Faber, 1965.