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Page history last edited by Chelsea Platt 15 years, 7 months ago
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe[1]
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,[2]
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo[3].

Daddy, I have had to kill you[4].
You died before I had time--
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.[5]
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.[6]
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.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You--[7] 

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not 
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two--
The vampire who said he was you[8]
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.[9]


  1. The black shoe serves as a metaphor for Plath's father. Typically, when you think of a shoe, you think of warmth and protection. Though, given the black color of this shoe, it seems we are forced to visualize death..or a coffin maybe. So, Plath's father served as her protector but also her smotherer.
  2. The rhyme and the structure of the first stanza is incredibly simple, and the rhyme scheme is even more so. Words such as shoe, do, achoo are used for rhymes which is reminiscent of a nursery poem. This nursery rhyme structure is a stark contrast to the content of the poem that is about to come.
  3. The major rhyme is identified in the first stanza, with ''do,'' ''shoe,'' and ''Achoo.'' However, continuing throughout the poem, the ''oo'' sound is very irregular and inconsistent, appearing throughout the overall poem, but not everywhere. This irregularity correlates to the relationship between Plath and her father. It helps strengthen the fact that Plath lived without her father for most of her life. There were times of happiness, and then periods of extreme depression in her life. The varied rhyme scheme mirrors the ups and downs of her life and her intense conflicting relationship with her father.
  4. This line is extremely powerful and is something that most people hope they would never have to say. Plath is saying that she has to rid herself of her father, he has to be dead to her. By doing this, she hopes to purge the happiness that he brings into her life.
  5. This stanza expresses the speaker's feelings of exasperation towards the search for her dad. The lack of communication and connection between them may be the reason why she "lived like a foot" in the "black shoe" feeling entrapped for thirty years in ignorancy. Because she does not know the true identity of her dad, she creates an imaginary persona of him that contrasts greatly from her own. This is apparent when she identifies her dad as a "German" while herself as a "Jew" further implying the great amount of torment he brings to her life.
  6. In this stanza Plath compares herself to a Jew stuck inside a camp surrounded by barbed wire, such as Auschwitz. She further critizes her father by comparing him to a German when she asys "I thought that every German was you." By comparing herself to a Jew and comparing her father to a Nazi, Plath is illustrating how much pain, agony and distress her father called her; just as the Nazis caused pain to the Jewish people during World War II.
  7. The descriptions that Plath uses in this stanza to describe her father are indicative that she sees her father as a Nazi. She claims to be scared to his Luftwaffe, which was the name for the German Air Force during WWII. The mention of he "neat mustache/ And your Aryan eye, bright blue" also reinforce he idea of a typical Aryan solider. "Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You..." calls attention to the idea of the armored-man, typically German soldiers. Since Plath casts herself as a Jew ("I think I may well be a Jew") and her father as a Nazi soldier, then I think it becomes easier to see how/why she feared her father so much. This stanza calls attention to the attempt by Nazis led by Hitler to eliminate the Jews.
  8. Here Plath switches from comparing her father to a metaphorical monster (a Nazi) to a literal monster (a vampire). It further emphasizes the hateful tone of the poem and shifts the her anger from her father's German heritage to his own actions.
  9. Plath does not have a set rhyme scheme, but the "oo" and "ew" sound is a continuous sound that she uses to end the lines. Besides the continuity that this sound provides for the poem, the rhyme reminds me of a rhyme that children's stories employ. This emphasizes her father-daughter relationship in the poem.

Comments (1)

nomeaku@... said

at 9:44 am on Dec 5, 2008

The poem showcases Plath feelings of rage toward her dad and her husband, who seemed to be a manisfestation or reincarnation of Plath's father. Although, when she lost her father she still loved him, as she grew older the love morphed into a form of hatred. Throughout the poem, Plath seems to continually be switching from a ten year old child's tone to the the tone of an adult woman. By the conclusion of the poem, it seems that she has gained closure and reached a resolution with the lines, "Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through".

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