Sylvia Plath's marriage to the poet Ted Hughes developed from fairy-tale to stormy and ended up as one of the most tragic in literary history when Plath committed suicide in 1963 at the age of 30. Her poems, the greatest ones of which were written months before she took her life, reflect intonations of darkness and death, as remembrances of her earlier attempts at suicide coupled with repetitive visits of depression and her marriage's subsequent failure contributed to the themes which permeated her writings during her short but nonetheless productive life. Poets and critics hailed her works as the best examples of confessional poetry, as is summed up by the below poem written shortly before her death and published in her posthuomuous collection Ariel.
In Daddy, Plath describes her complicated feelings towards her father Otto who died after her eighth birthday due to undiagnosed diabetes. In the poem Plath regards her father's memory as something which she has to bury in oblivion. She describes him in God-like terms, and she seems to have difficulties coming to grips with his death, that at one point she recalls a suicide attempt at age 20 to join him (At twenty I tried to die/And get back, back, back to you.) She then goes on to say that she married Hughes for his resemblance to her dead father, a manifestation of the Electra complex which Plath was aware herself. At the end Plath says she has killed both of them (that is, forgotten both of them) and that she is therefore through with her father's lingering memory.
by Sylvia Plath
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 beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
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 gipsy 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 villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.