Study Guide

Daddy Freedom and Confinement

By Sylvia Plath

Freedom and Confinement

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo. (lines 1-5)

In the very start of the poem, we get an image of how our narrator is trapped – she's calling her father a shoe that she's been stuck inside of. Even more, by starting off with a nursery rhyme, she appeals to 1960s images of her gender, which focused on the role of women as mothers and housewives.

The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich, (lines 25-27)

Even the speaker's tongue is stuck in this poem! She can't say the word "I." She appears to be so trapped by her fear of her dead father that she's unable to define herself.

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen. (lines 31-33)

The speaker brings up a terrifying image of confinement, that of the Jews imprisoned in concentration camps during the Holocaust. It's a big risk for the speaker to compare herself to a Jew – it's a serious topic that she could be seen to be taking lightly. But she feels that she has been, and that women have been, victimized enough to merit the metaphor.

Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you. (lines 48-50)

Here, the speaker is saying that every woman loves a fascist. Fascism is a very confining form of government, which trades freedom for tyranny. Yet these lines say that women love fascists, implying that women willingly put themselves in confinement by loving tyrannical men.

The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know. (lines 72-24)

These lines present marriage as a form of confinement. The man to whom our speaker said "I do" turned out to be a vampire, and drains her life's blood for their entire marriage. This is another place in the poem that reaches beyond the speaker and her father to comment on relationships between women and men in general.

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