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Revenge And Hatred In Sylvia Plath's Daddy

607 words - 2 pages

Revenge and Hatred in Plath's Daddy

The power of Plath's Daddy to threaten, shock and move the reader remains undiminished, years after it was written. To the unsuspecting reader, the experience of first reading "Daddy" is a confusion of discomfort, excitement and guilty pleasure, for the pleasures of revenge are said to be sweet, and this is a revenge poem of the first rank. Revenge upon whom? Father? Perhaps, more likely, upon her husband. And her aim was true, for if anything Plath wrote damaged Ted Hughes for posterity, "Daddy" is it. From this poem, we gather our indelible impressions of Hughes as a brute, a wife beater, a vampire, even an implied racist and murderer (if we extend the Hitler metaphor to its fullest implications) . . . on and on.

The controversial Holocaust imagery can be directly linked to the period in which the poem was written. In 1961, the entire world was riveted by the Jerusalem trial of Nazi SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolph Eichmann (who was executed in 1962, a few months before "Daddy" was written). This was the first televised trial in history, and for most it was the first they had heard of Hitler?s "Final Solution." The anguished testimonies of camp survivors and the horrifying details that emerged about the cold bureaucratic extermination of six million European Jews caused a frenzy of reaction ? it literally rocked the moral fiber of the world, and we?re still reeling (if more jaded). It was a subject on fire in the public imagination at the time. Plath?s appropriation of Holocaust imagery for her own ends, which strikes so many as grossly inappropriate, can perhaps be interpreted as stemming from that initial horrified zeitgeist. Perhaps she felt she was raising consciousness and...

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