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Pathos Analysis Exercise I:

The following is an excerpt from a poem. Read it, and think about emotion. How does the poet go about creating an emotional response? What words or images strike you as particularly powerful.

Sylvia Plath was an American poet. As a girl, she considered her father, a German instructor, to be emotionally abusive. She later married British poet Ted Hughes, but found him to be disturbingly similar to her father. She committed suicide a few years after writing "Daddy."


[concluding stanzas]


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
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.
--Sylvia Plath, 1965

Pathos: Pathos is the use of language, examples, diction, or images to create an emotional reaction in the reader. The most common types are anger at a social injustice, sympathy for another's misfortune, or laughter at an unusual situation.

  • How does Plath create pathos in the poem?
  • What emotions result?
  • What diction creates that effect?
  • How would you characterize the speaker? What persona does she don when she talks?
  • Is there an implied argument in the poem?
  • Can you list unusual images that Plath juxtaposes within the poem? Why do you think she chose them?

Click here to download a PDF version of these lines from the poem.











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