Critical Essay Question

Critical Essay Writing, Poetry

Think of a poem in which one of the central characters is in pain.

Consider how the poet uses poetic techniques to convey this pain and how effective this is to the reader’s understanding of the poem.


Essay Question -Daddy


Write an introduction and 3 evaluations (MAREs) for the following question:

Choose a poem which seems to you to be critical of a person or a point of view.
Discuss how effectively this criticism is presented by the poet.

Daddy – Sample Evaluations


Sample Evaluation 1

 Plath uses repetition to convey that she feels victimised by her father’s death in verse seven when she describes herself as “a bit of a Jew.” This effectively demonstrates Plath’s anger towards her father as she compares herself to the Jewish people, who were extremely victimised during WW2. Furthermore, her reference to “a bit,” suggests that she is confused. By comparing her father to a Nazi, and herself to a Jew, she highlights the grief she is suffering and demonstrates how complex her character is.


Sample Evaluation 2

The poet uses repetition to convey her father’s death in verse 1 by exclaiming that “you do not do, you do not do.” This effectively shows us that her father will “do,” no more as he is dead and that this has had a significant impact on her. This focuses the reader’s attention on how complex Plath is, and demonstrates her unhappiness, and the theme of death, in the very first line.


Sample Evaluation 3

 Plath uses a metaphor to convey the pain she feels due to the loss of her father in verse six, by explaining “it stuck in a barb wire snare.” This effectively demonstrates Plath’s feelings about her father’s death and the restrictions she experiences as she compares her life to the concentration camps run by the Nazis in WW2. Additionally, the poet introduces violence and death in this line as “barb wire,” suggests danger and restriction. This highlights how lonely, depressed and secluded she feels, demonstrating what a complex character she is.


Sample Evaluation 4

 Plath uses word choice to highlight the theme of death in verse two when using the phrase “marble heavy.” This has connotations of death as gravestones are also made of marble. Furthermore, the reference to “heavy,” shows the overwhelming emotional weight she has been carrying since her father’s death. This has contributed to the complexity of her character.


Daddy – Sylvia Plath


Annotate the following poem, considering poetic devices such as imagery, word choice, structure, motif & symbolism.

Daddy, by 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 breathe or Achoo.


Daddy, I have had to kill you.

You died before I had time–

Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,

Ghastly statue with one gray toe

Big as a Frisco seal


And a head in the freakish Atlantic

Where it pours bean green over blue

In the waters off beautiful Nauset.

I used to pray to recover you.

Ach, du.


In the German tongue, in the Polish town

Scraped flat by the roller

Of wars, wars, wars.

But the name of the town is common.

My Polack friend


Says there are a dozen or two.

So I never could tell where you

Put your foot, your root,

I never could talk to you.

The tongue stuck in my jaw.


It stuck in a barb wire snare.

Ich, ich, ich, ich,

I could hardly speak.

I thought every German was you.

And the language obscene


An engine, an engine

Chuffing me off like a Jew.

A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.

I began to talk like a Jew.

I think I may well be a Jew.


The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna

Are not very pure or true.

With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck

And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack

I may be a bit of a Jew.


I have always been scared of you,

With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.

And your neat mustache

And your Aryan eye, bright blue.

Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You–


Not God but a swastika

So black no sky could squeak through.

Every woman adores a Fascist,

The boot in the face, the brute

Brute heart of a brute like you.


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.

Critical Essay – Instructions

Critical Essay Writing, Poetry


  • Focus on two themes, discussing the poetic techniques Plath uses to convey her distress at the death of her father.
  • Try to stick to between 3 & 4 techniques.
  • Focus on how the techniques convey the themes, not the other way around.
  • Write 6 evaluations, each dealing with the use of a technique to convey a theme.
  • Ensure you have a solid introduction and conclusion.
  • The essay should be approximately 1200 words.

Practice Critical Essay Questions

Critical Essay Writing


Choose from a play a scene which significantly changes your view of a character.

Explain how the scene prompts this reappraisal and discuss how important it is to your understanding of the character in the play as a whole.


Choose a novel which deals with betrayal.

Discuss the writer’s exploration of the theme and show to what extent it conveys a powerful message about the nature of love.


Choose a poem which explore the theme of war.

Discuss how this theme is explored and how effective the poet is in conveying the central concerns of the text.