Daddy issues in Both Playboy and Plath

The cartoon above was published in Playboy (vol. 25, no. 2) in 1978, thirteen years after Sylvia Plath published her poem “Daddy.” The connection between these works comes from how they both bring to mind the Electra complex, the female version of the Oedipus complex. Both the woman in the cartoon and the speaker in the poem seek their father in their partners. The cartoon paints this as something quirky and amusing while the poem is deeply disturbing in its description of a father.  

“Daddy” is often viewed as Sylvia Plath’s most famous and controversial poem, according to Linda Anderson  (Anderson,182). While not explicitly feminist, “Daddy” is certainly critical of patriarchal dominance in society. In the last two stanzas, Plath compares both her husband and her father to inhuman vampires that she has killed. The poem was written on October 12, 1962, the twentieth anniversary of her father’s leg amputation and the day she learned Ted Hughes, her husband, had agreed to a divorce (Platizky, 106). This was also around the time of Adolf Eichmann’s trial and execution, who may be the source of the poem’s Nazi imagery. The poem mixes the personal with the impersonal to paint the father as an evil but beloved figure.

The poem is about a woman desperately trying to overcome the male dominance of society. The tragedy comes from the fact that even in death, a father has power over his daughter. When juxtaposed, the cartoon can be viewed as a simplification of Plath’s ideas. Both women are controlled and exploited through their desire for a father. This allows the cartoon to be seen as something deeply tragic with the man reducing something deeply personal into a shallow means for sexual favors.     


Anderson, Linda. “Gender, Feminism, Poetry: Stevie Smith, Sylvia Plath, Jo                          Shapcott.” The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century English Poetry,                  edited by Neil Corcoran, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007: 173–186.

Platizky, Roger. “Plath’s Daddy.” The Explicator., vol. 55, no. 2, 1997, pp. 105–107.

Playboy, vol. 25, no. 2, Playboy, 1978.

Plath, Sylvia. “Daddy .” Poetry Foundation, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 1992,          Accessed 11             Dec. 2018.