A Comparison of Daddy and Happy Fathers Day by Patrick Middleton and Sylvia Plaths Daddy

Categories: Father's Day

Although these three poems are written by two very different authors, they both share a similarity in one aspect: they both confess to how the speakers truly look at their fathers. The first and second poems, “Daddy” and “Happy Father’s Day,” by Patrick Middleton, confess to feelings of regret, self-hatred, forgiveness, and a hidden love. However, Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” expresses a morbid hatred and disgust towards the father figure in her poem. The confessional voice is evident in all three, but a little harder to realize in “Happy Father’s Day,” because it is a narrative poem.

The poetic devices that occur in these three poems help to let the reader realize the confession taking place in each poem.

Middleton’s “Daddy” starts off stating the apostrophe to the speaker’s father, which continues throughout the poem. The whole poem, it seems, is a letter to his father, answering a letter from his father. The first line, “Concerning your letter in which you plead:” is how the reader realizes what the poem is and the person who it is addressed to, but it also lets the reader in on what his father wrote to him.

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The word “plead” seems to mean that his father now wants to see his son, after all these years of absence, and is “pleading” to be able to see him again. The second couplet, “with my bitterness, / with my greed,” includes repetition which is emphasizing the son’s “bitterness” and “greed,” which must be a result of his father’s influence over him.

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The third couplet, “You’re too late, Daddy Dear, your pied-piping / no longer pipes through my pickled ears,” includes an allusion to the story of the “Pied-piper” who whistled a sweet song so that all the rats would follow him to the river and then he drowned them all. This allusion means that the son looks at his father as the “Pied-piper;” he has always tried to whistle a sweet song so that his son would follow him, but was only planning on (metaphorically) drowning him.

The first line of this couplet has a bit of sarcasm in it with the “Daddy Dear” direct address. He obviously does not think of his father as a “dear” man, and is bitter about it. He therefore uses sarcasm to let the reader know what he thinks of his “dear” father. Line 10, “a point of view filled with cracks,” is a metaphor explaining his father’s influence over him. The reason his “point-of-view” was “filled with cracks” was that it was his father’s “point-of-view,” not his own. In lines 11 and 12, there is a simile about the son and his adoring attitude towards his father when he was young. “And Iwaited, dumb as stones.” The son “waited” for his father to speak and tell him all about everything, and he listened to him and believed him. Only now does he realize just how dumb he was to listen to his father about everything. The next two couplets (lines 13-16) include two pieces of repetition which emphasize the fact that he blames himself for his father’s neglect and he wants to repent for it. He repeats the words “wrong” and “penance” and also uses “Confession” as a pun. He says that his first “Confession was twelve hours long,” but his “confession” is really the poem.

Lines 19 and 20 also use repetition and a pun; “I tried” is repeated because he really did try to please his father. Line 19, “Did you think the son would shine?” is a pun because he thinks the sun is brighter than he is. The next poetic device that Middleton uses is an allusion to India and the time period when camels used to carry spices. “A son’s love is no mere camel’s burden of spices.” He thinks that he was a burden to his father, but that he shouldn’t have been a “burden.” Lines 28-30 are a metaphor about how he needed his dad, but his dad wasn’t there, as always. The next four lines are also a metaphor, but these deal with the speaker’s subconscious and how he subconsciously hated his father no matter what he did outwardly. The last couplet, “It doesn’t matter, the flame went out, / and now I am some other guy,” is the conclusion of his thoughts about his father. He is done thinking about it forever.

Middleton’s poem, “Happy Father’s Day” confesses feelings completely different from the first poem. Lines eight and nine, “I locked the tears in my eyes, / for men in prison aren’t supposed to cry,” tells the reader about how the speaker tries to oppress his feelings, and always has. He has hidden feelings from everyone, particularly his father. The next two lines, ten and eleven, “How I wanted to choke his regrets, / to swat his smile like one does a housefly,” speak of his issues with violence. There is no need to get that violent with someone who made a mistake, but people who come from violent backgrounds tend to get more violent than others do. Maybe the author is suggesting that the speaker came from a violent background. In lines 18 through 24, the speaker confesses to what he would have done if his father had been let in. He says he would “kiss your [his father’s cheek,” and “whisper in your ear, ‘I love you, Dad.” This confession provides the reader with facts that prove that he loves his father and wishes he were there. The next two lines, the last two lines, provide insight into the speaker’s past. “And I cried for the sons and daughters / of the ‘untouchable’ man who turned you away.” His dad must have been “untouchable” also when he was younger and he is crying for children who will grow up to be as psychologically messed up as he is because of their father’s neglect and coldness.

In Plath’s poem, “Daddy,” there are many allusions made to Hitler and nazi Germany. She speaks of “Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen,” and his “Luftwaffe” and “Aryan eye,” etc. She is comparing her father to Hitler because he was as oppressive and evil. The first stanza is a metaphor about a “black shoe” which a “foot” (she) has lived inside of, “barely daring to breathe or Achoo.” This metaphor explains how oppressive her father was. If she was scared to breathe, he must have been extremely despotic to live with. The second stanza starts off with a metaphor of “Daddy, I have had to kill you.” She did not really kill him, but she “killed” his memory inside her head. The third line, “Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,” is an oxymoron because her father was not “God”-like at all. He was the opposite: evil. Later on in the poem, she compares him to the Devil. He is closer to that than to God. Lines ten through eleven, “Big as a Frisco seal and a head in the freakish Atlantic,” are a metaphor explaining how huge she thought her father was. He stretched all the way from San Francisco to the Atlantic, that is how huge he was. He was huge because he was imposing and superior.

The whole poem is an apostrophe to the speaker’s father. She directly addresses him more than once, and he is dead. This apostrophe illustrates power because a person has to be confident to directly address someone, but not in her case. She has power to confront a dead man, which is not really power at all. In line 29, she states “I thought every German was you” which justifies a reader believing that she is really trying to say that all men are the same; they are all evil. She comes back to that idea in line 71, “If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two.” It’s all the same because “all men are equal.” In lines 34 through 40, the speaker relates herself to a Jew and a gypsy, two of the most hated groups by the Nazis. If the reader goes back to the metaphor of her father being Hitler, it is evident that she wants to be a Jew or a gypsy so that her father will hate her. She hates him so mush that she wants him to despise her as well. She also wants to rebel as much as possible. If her father were Hitler, and she were a Jewish gypsy, she would be beyond rebellious. Lines 53 through 54, “A cleft in your chin instead of your foot / But no less a devil for that, no not” are an allusion to the supposed fact that cleft hooves are a characteristic of the Devil. His cleft may be in his chin, but he is still evil. Line 67, “And I said I do, I do” is explaining that she is now married and is under the influence of some other man. He may be evil, but he is at least not her father.

Next comes a metaphor comparing her father and her husband to a vampire. This metaphor is her statement that both of the men in her life were monsters, and all men are equal, so all men must be monsters. The last line, “Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through,” Shows her overall attitude of hatred towards her father. She despises him and is glad he is dead. These three poems, although different, all confessed to the true attitude of the speaker towards his/her father. The first, “Daddy” by Middleton expressed regret and blame on himself instead of his father. “Happy Father’s Day” showed feelings of hidden love and longing. Plath’s “Daddy,” however, exhibited one feeling: Hatred. These poems delved into the brains of three hypothetical people and wrote down the innermost thought of this “person” about their “father.”

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A Comparison of Daddy and Happy Fathers Day by Patrick Middleton and Sylvia Plaths Daddy. (2022, Feb 04). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/a-comparison-of-daddy-and-happy-fathers-day-by-patrick-middleton-and-sylvia-plaths-daddy-essay

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