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The Familiar and Unfamiliar - Poems of Sylvia Plath

             '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 breath or Achoo', is the opening description provided by Plath of her circumstances in 'Daddy'. In this opening stanza, the familiar image of a foot inside a shoe forms the basis of a psychological exploration of the subjugation of women to the power of dominant masculinity. Plath, representative of women, is forced into submission by the notion of her deceased father, the black shoe in this instance. This commonplace simile, combined with the diction of 'black shoe; and 'poor and white' contributes to sense of suffocation in the poems opening stanza. The 'poor', 'white' foot, representative of Plath has been overwhelmed by the powerful 'black shoe,' a masculine image explored in greater detail throughout the poem. Familiar sounds and structures are used in Daddy's opening to contribute to a sense of victimisation, the euphonic alliteration of 'oo' sounds in 'You will not do' and 'Achoo' significant both in its disturbing auditory imagery as well as its relation to the linguistic uncertainty of the German of Plath's father, explored in later references to the German word 'Ach du' and the victimhood of the familiar historical figure of a Jew who has also been stripped of all liberty by and overwhelming master.
             Plath's focus ont eh use of the familiar to consider the unfamiliar is furthered by the specific use of Nazi imagery to describe continuity in her relationship to patriarchal suppression. In this case, Nazi imagery is used to conflate the father image of 'Daddy' explored in the poem's opening with her husband Ted Hughes. Plath describes Hughes as a metaphorical model of her dominant father, 'a man in black with a Meinkampf look/ And a love of the rack and the screw.

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