Sylvia Plath+s complex relationship with her father is revealed through imagery used in her writings including the poem and book “Daddy” and The Bell Jar. Plath developed as a writer with an individual style. She used diction, in her writings, which give the reader a very distinct understanding of what she is trying to imply. Plath, also, sets a tone in her writing that is very distinct amongst other writings. Her style, diction, and tone are seen clearly in “Daddy” and The Bell Jar. The imagery used within “Daddy” and The Bell Jar help the reading to understand and envision what Plath is attempting to express. This imagery expresses Plath+s complex relationship with her father and his influence on her writing. Although Plath does not name herself as the character portrayed in “Daddy” and The Bell Jar, she reveals her thoughts on subjects that relate to her life. Within the two texts, Plath reveals much about her most inner feelings about life, death, and her father. Plath seems to reveal her true psychological state and all of her personal suffering through her imagery in “Daddy” and The Bell Jar. Plath stands apart from other writers because she addresses the issues facing her own personal life. She seems to give the reader insight to her own feelings of confusion, frustration, paranoid and fear. This amongst other elements helps the reader to see Plath as a person and a poet/ author.
Along with Sylvia Plath+s complex relationship with her father she must also deal with the issues of being a women in her time period. Sylvia Plath is a writer that expresses her feelings of being a woman and a daughter through her use of imagery and supported by her style, diction and tone. Plath shows herself as a woman by writing about the dilemma in choosing between a career and family. She shows herself as a daughter by writing about the death of her father. These two central themes are the basis for “Daddy” and The Bell Jar, and are seen as Plath+s weakness. John Malcolm Brinnin states that “Plath+s strength is her weakness; impulses that individuate her thrilling talent are the same impulses that shirk the limits of a commanding achievement. “(Brinnin pg.269). This quote shows the reader that Plath expresses through her true feelings and weaknesses, which in turn made her a strong writer. Plath used an informal style in her writing that helps reader to see her characters as individuals, and express to the reader her true feelings. The diction Plath used helps the reader to sense and imagine just what she is trying to imply. Her word choice serves as an important element for emphasizes on certain aspects of her writing. Plath+s tone seems to be generally cynical, angry and abandoned. Her imagery, style, diction, and tone distinguish Plath amongst other writers.
” For reasons good and bad, the spokesmen for the sensibility of extreme gestures- all the blackness, confusion, denial, and laceration that are warranted by both modern experience and the moral bromides of this moment see in Sylvia Plath an authentic priestess. Because she is authentic ” (Howe, pg.271).
Irving Howe is supporting, in this quote, that Plath is genuine in her manner of writing.
Sylvia Plath+s use of style, diction, and tone in “Daddy” does not go astray from her recurrent usage of each, while she shows the reader the complex relationship with herself and her father. In “Daddy”, Plath has an informal style that helps the reader relate to her character on a personal level. Despite the fact that the reader may not have had such feelings toward their father, as Plath does, one can still relate with the universal feeling of confusion and despair that she invokes. Plath writes, in “Daddy”, “Daddy, I have had to kill you ” (6), this quote shows Plath+s use of informal language to get the reader to feel intimate with her and her thoughts. This I all done by simply using the name “daddy” as opposed to father. Irving Howe supports the idea of Plath+s use of informality when he tells readers:
The diction used in “Daddy” helps the reader to understand what Plath is trying to imply. In the quote “And your Aryan eye, bright blue, Panzer-man, Panzer-man, O You” the repetition of words give the reader an understanding of how Plath thinks about her father, because of emphasize on the word Panzer-man. Her choice of words helps the reader to see what she is feeling. Plath+s distinguishing tone is seen in the quote “There+s a stake in your fat black heart”. The tone of this quote is very cynical, angry and abandoned, in that it shows the division between Plath and her father. Richard Howard supports this in his description of Plath+s writing.
“She prefers, though, to make you hear what she sees, the texture of language affording a kind of analogue for the experience she presents we grasp what it is she wishes us to know because of the way we hear it.” (Howard, pg.349)
In The Bell Jar, Plath uses her common style, diction and tone to tell a story that is very similar to her own home life. The informal style used in The Bell Jar is shown through Plath writing in the first person. Plath offers her readers genuine insight into Ester+s (the main character in The Bell Jar and Plath+s real life equivalent) most intimate thoughts. Doing this helps the reader understand, Ester, her actions in all situations. Once an understanding of the character is obtained the reader is drawn into Ester+s life. Esther+s confusion, frustration, paranoid and fear all become very captivating to the reader. An example of the use of the first person to give the reader a kind of relationship with the main character Ester is, “I knew something was wrong with me that summer “(The Bell Jar ,pg.1) The honesty of the emotions presented within The Bell Jar moves the reader. The diction used within The Bell Jar helps for the reader to see Plath+s train of thought. This is seen in the quote:
“Then something leapt out of the lamp in a blue flash and shook me until my teeth rattled, and I tried to pull my hands off, but they were stuck, and I screamed, or a scream was torn from my throat, for I didn+t recognize it, but heard it sore and quaver in the air like a violently disembodied spirit.” (The Bell Jar, pg. 118).
This quote shows Ester+s running on train of thought. This method of not using periods, but commas instead gives a certain intensity to it. Throughout The Bell Jar, Plath embraces her distinguishing tone, as Ester contemplates the issues facing every young women of Plath+s time, in choosing between career and family. Plath creates a very touching depiction of society+s requirements on young women of the era. She shows the reader the internal struggle within a woman trying to cope with these issues. Throughout the novel Plath+s equivalent, which is Ester, keeps a cynical, angry, and abandoned tone. Richard Howard supports this when telling his readers about Plath+s method of writing The Bell Jar in the quote:
“Sylvia Plath enters upon her apprenticeship to others, to otherness, to ecstasy; more ceremonious then Lessing, more ingenious than Reage, but like them prepared to obey a tragic ontogeny, she sloughs off we see her divest herself of mere personality like the cloud in order to achieve the ecstatic identity conferred by joy.”
Plath use of imagery in her poem “Daddy” helps her readers understand the complex relationship she had with her father and what part that played in her writing. Sylvia Plath once said that “Daddy+ was about a girl with an Electra complex. The speaker of the poem has lost her father at the age of ten. During the speaker+s childhood, the father was obviously like a God to her, in his omnipresence and power. As the girl has grown and this omnipresence and power is overwhelming and scary. She begins to realize that he had an oppressing and dominating effect on her, even after his death. This is where Plath+s use of imagery comes into play. Shoes and feet are a recurrent image in this poem; they take on different meanings. Line 3 of “Daddy” says, “In which I have lived liked a foot”. In this line the speaker compares herself to a foot that “lives” in a shoe. The meaning of this is that the girl is the foot and her father the shoe. The shoe (her father) evokes the image of a shoe protecting the foot (the speaker) but it also can be seen as a trap that smothers the foot (the speaker). So the speaker feels at the same time protected and smothered by her father. In lines 22-24 of “Daddy” the foot takes on a new meaning. “So I never could tell where you put your foot, your root, I could never talk to you.”(22-24 “Daddy”). The foot becomes a symbol of the speaker+s origin. The father+s origin is mysterious because there were so many towns named the same as the one he came from, which is shown when the speaker says ” But the name of the town is common”(19). This being so the fathers roots can not be traced back. The black shoe reappears as a boot in line 49 when the speaker is calling the father a nazi. The boot is supposed be a military boot that connects him to being a nazi. A second image that Plath uses in “Daddy” that shows the complex relationship that she has with her father is her father as a nazi and the speaker as a Jew. This image shows the speakers feelings of oppression between herself and her father. This poem is a reflection of the way Plath feels about her own father. The reader would know this by Plath+s up being. Her father Otto Plath was of German decent, while mother who was Austrian and who was very possibly Jewish. This poem is Plath+s way of confronting her German-Austrian decent. Mary G. DeJong points out, “Now that Plath+s work are better known “Daddy” is generally recognized as more than a confession of her personal feelings toward her father” (DeJong pg. 34-35).
In The Bell Jar, the image that helps the reader understand Plath+s complex relationship with her father is Ester growing up without a father. The image is a representation of Plath herself. John Macolm Brinnin states “the whole book is top-heavy, teetering on that point where a self-created figure threatens to topple over into self-expression and the diversions of psychopathology ” (Brinnin pg.269). This quote is saying that Plath+s creation of Ester is really the creation of a character derived from her own experiences. So this image is the key one in the novel because it shows how Plath truly feels about growing up without a father and the experiences she had in the process. A quote that supports this idea is:
“It is quite difficult to read Sylvia Plath+s poetry and fiction and not think about her suicide. So often she herself is the subject of her creations. Her pathetically early death seems to shadow her work Although The Bell Jar is a beautifully written novel, it is also a badly flawed one Why if Miss Plath lived through the events described are they so unconvincing? Perhaps she herself could not explain her behavior Or perhaps Miss Plath hadn+t had enough experience with fiction to produce anything more than a thin journal-like record.”