23 April 2015
Exorcising Your Demons Through Poetry
In the words of English graphic novel writer Alan Moore, “Artists use lies to tell the truth.” If one had lost someone very close to them and were to write a poem about their immense struggle with depression then they may express how unhappy and sad they must feel simply using these words. However, the words “unhappy” and “sad” may not carry much poetic depth and would certainly not convey the severe emotional distress one feels when they have lost a loved one. So, they may say that they are “bereaved” and “deeply saddened,” but this is still not enough to make the reader understand their trauma. Furthermore, this person was psychologically and physically abused by their loved one who had passed on—creating a double edged sword of resentment and trauma because they are sad they are gone, and scarred by the abuse they experienced. They even feel that this person should have never existed in the first place. So the poet has an idea to use the holocaust as a symbol—to present themselves as an oppressed Jew in Nazi Germany, and the person that passed on as Adolf Hitler, to successfully convey the pain and suffering of this person. The poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath does exactly this and is written about her abusive father who had died when she was eight years old (Sylvia
Plath). “Daddy” represents Plath’s personal struggles with her father using metaphors, imagery, word choice, and even real occurrences in her life, and ultimately overcomes these struggles by addressing her abuser and declaring that she has had enough.
Plath uses metaphors and imagery to represent the controlling and abusive nature of her father towards her. In the very first stanza she refers to her father as a black shoe and to herself as
Earwood !2 a foot that was in the shoe “For thirty years” (Plath). When a foot is in a shoe it is not in its naturally free state of being naked, and the foot being in the shoe for thirty years is certainly not natural and will cause a great deal of frustration for this person.“…black shoe In which I have lived like a foot, For thirty years, poor and white, Barely daring to breathe or Achoo” (Plath) Her not being able to breathe or sneeze conveys suffocation and this represents the over-bearing nature of her father. Her father could have been overly protective of her and this is also evident when she describes the shoe as black and herself as “poor and white.” The color black represents security and a dominant attitude (especially when the shoe is later said to be a boot because this gives the reader a sense of military-like strictness) while white symbolizes innocence and “poor” along with this means she has nothing because her father is hiding her from what she can have.
Ultimately this symbol of Plath being a poor white foot in a black boot is allegorical for Plath being shunned from the world because she is being trapped by her father. Plath then refers to her father as a vampire and her killing him with a steak to his heart. “I've killed one man, I've killed two--The vampire who said he was you… There's a stake in your fat black heart And the villagers never liked you. They are dancing and stamping on you” (Plath) By referring to her father as a vampire it makes the interesting point that he has still haunted her after he has died for a vampire is the “living dead,” or “undead,” until they are stabbed in the heart by a steak or by some other ritualistic method of killing the mythological monster. Her father haunts her through the depression and overwhelming sadness that plagues her life. Additionally, vampires are closely associated to demons and this is metaphorical in how some people have “demons,” or past traumas that have not been internally resolved (Pecos and Lomax). Plath stabbing him with
Earwood !3 a steak symbolizes her overcoming this depression by facing her father, or in other words, facing her demons.