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by Sylvia Plath

Nazis and the Holocaust

Symbol Analysis

The speaker indicates that her German father is like a Nazi, and that she is like a Jew. This is a very powerful metaphor for how the speaker feels like she is a victim of her father, or perhaps for how she feels about men in general. But she doesn't come right out and call him a Nazi. Instead, she uses metaphors, imagery, and subtle wordplay to show us that he's like a Nazi.

  • Lines 29-35: Here, the speaker uses a train engine as a metaphor for the German language, which her father speaks. The train is taking the speaker to a concentration camp, like the Jews were during the Holocaust, which is a metaphor for how she feels that she is a victim of her father.
  • Line 42: "Luftwaffe" means air force in German, and specifically refers to the German air force of World War II. By using German, the speaker is remaining subtle in her metaphorical incrimination of her father as Nazi. She says that he is connected to the German air force, not that he's a Nazi straight-out.
  • Lines 43-44: Here, the speaker uses imagery to build the metaphor that her father is a Nazi. The neat mustache is an allusion (a subtle reference) to Hitler's mustache. The bright blue Aryan eyes refer to the Nazi's ideal race of people.
  • Line 45: The German word for a tank is "panzer," and the men who manned German army tanks were called "Panzermen," so this reference goes along with "Luftwaffe." The use of German subtly connects the speaker's father with Nazi Germany.
  • Lines 46-47: Here the connection with Nazis becomes more blatant. The speaker's father changes from one metaphor – being like God – to another – being a swastika, the symbol of Nazism. Line 47 is an example of hyperbole, or extreme exaggeration – the swastika is not just black, but so black it blots out the sky.
  • Line 48: Fascists, including the Nazis, are known to be tyrannical and cruel. Doesn't sound like something anyone would love, much less something every women loves.
  • Line 65: Here, we've moved from connecting the speaker's father to the Nazis to connecting the model of him – the speaker's husband – to Hitler. Mein Kampf is a book written by Hitler, so saying that this man has a Meinkampf look is an allusion to Hitler.

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