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by Sylvia Plath

Daddy Theme of Language and Communication

The speaker of "Daddy" is addressing her dead father, who she had problems talking to even when he was alive. Maybe this is because he was a German immigrant and couldn't speak English well, or maybe it was because she was scared of him, but in any case, the German language plays into her difficulties. At the end of the poem, the speaker cuts off communications with her father for good. The speaker's struggle to communicate with her father causes her great suffering, demonstrating the power of language.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. How does the German language create communication issues in this poem?
  2. For you, what does this black telephone being cut off at the root symbolize? Why use the imagery of a telephone and plant roots?
  3. The speaker says that she used to pray to recover her father. Now that she's stopped praying, how else does she try to communicate with him?
  4. How much of this poem do you think is an address to the speaker's father, and how much is the speaker thinking to herself?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

It's ironic that though the speaker claims that she's through with her father, she writes an 80-line poem to cut off communication with him.

The speaker expresses her inability to communicate in her father's language, German, in order to show his power over her.

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