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by Sylvia Plath

Daddy Language and Communication Quotes

How we cite our quotes: stanza, line

Quote #4

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. (lines 24-28)

Now we see a more vivid description of how German is an obstacle to the speaker's communication with her father. She tells us how she can't speak to her father, and then we hear her stammering, saying "Ich, ich, ich, ich" – "I," in German. So not only is she struggling to talk, but she's having a hard time speaking the word "I" – a word essential to her identity, which has been overpowered by her father.

Quote #5

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. (lines 30-35)

Now that we've heard the speaker struggle to communicate in German, we get a glimpse of the German language's power over her – it's no longer a language, but a train, taking her away to a World War II concentration camp. German has overpowered her so much she even begins to speak like the victims of the German Nazis, like a Jew.

Quote #6

The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through. (lines 69-70)

Here, the struggle to communicate is over – the speaker is taking back the power. She's disconnected the "black telephone" which connects her with her dead father. She's building up to the end of the poem here, telling her father, for the last time, that she is through.

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