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Kavaler, S. (1986). “Lord of the Mirrors” and Demon Lover. Am. J. Psychoanal., 46(4):336-344.

(1986). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 46(4):336-344

“Lord of the Mirrors” and Demon Lover

Susan Kavaler, Ph.D.

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

Not God but a swastika

So black no sky could squeak through

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…

“Daddy,” from Ariel, Poems by Sylvia Plath, p. 49. Order of paragraphs rearranged.

There is a crucial double motive that stands out in Sylvia Plath's compulsion to create, as it stands out in her compulsion to suicide, and to internally destroy. This double motive is inextricably tied to her love and hate for her father, and to her relationship to him as a decisively split internal object. It's the reenactment of this internal object relationship that drives Plath to the intensity of her creativity, but the object splitting involved keeps the Self split as well, forestalling forever the reparation of the self that the creative process can sometimes provide.

As Butscher writes in his biography of Plath, at three years old she was reciting polysyllabic Latin names to win the amusement and the mirroring reflection of her adored father. Through such performance, she was shown off to her father's friends, winning her father's approval by reflecting his glory.


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