by Sylvia Plath
If a fan of Cool Hand Luke, a classic movie starring Paul Newman, took a look at this poem, she'd probably quote the film and say, "What we have here is failure to communicate." As we have seen, the speaker has a hard time talking to her father, and eventually stops trying. Yet, this entire poem is addressed to the speaker's father; with 80 lines, it seems she desperately wants to say something to him. But, remember, her father is dead, so there's no way she could possibly get through to him. The knowledge that her father will never read this poem is probably what enables the speaker to write it. We won't analyze every time the speaker addresses her father because that would be the entire poem, but we'll take a look at specific instances where she expresses trouble communicating.
- Lines 6, 51, 68, 75, 80: The use of the name "Daddy" in these lines is an example of apostrophe, or direct address to a person who is absent.
- Line 14: Prayer, as shown in this line, is a way of communicating with God, which is what this speaker is trying to do to get her father back. But it doesn't work – she "used to" pray, but doesn't anymore.
- Lines 24-28: Here, the speaker tells us straight-up that she could never talk to her father – we're guessing she means while he was alive. We get a couple cool metaphors here. The first is that the speaker's tongue gets stuck in her jaw, which is a metaphor for being unable to talk. But then we get a metaphor for the metaphor – the jaw turns into a barbed wire snare. In line 27, "Ich, ich, ich, ich," is not just repetition, but onomatopoeia, which means the words sound like what they are trying to get across, which is stammering. This line sounds like someone who was trying to speak German while her tongue was in a snare.
- Lines 68-70: The communication has now been terminated. These lines picture communication in a pretty cool way, though. The metaphor here is comparing the telephone to a plant – the phone is cut off at the root, and voices are like worms. It's as if there's a metaphorical telephone plant growing on her father's grave, with roots instead of wires. But it's uprooted now.