Barbie Doll Marge Piercy Analysis: Marge Piercy’s narrative poem “Barbie Doll” was published in 1971. This feminist poem brings light on the horrors of the sexism and patriarchy prevalent in society during the second wave of feminism through horrifying images and details. Throughout the poem, the author tries to explore the various sentiments that feminism is fighting for to this day by telling the story of a young woman’s life and death due to the burdens of this corrupt society.
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Barbie Doll Marge Piercy Analysis Summary
The poem starts off with the birth of a girl child who is at once given all the toys that a girl her age may need that will help her in the long run to be a dutiful mother and wife. Toys like a “GE stove” and dolls that require diaper changes are already subconsciously preparing her for her future role as a mere caregiver. She has also given lipsticks the colour of “cherry candy”, which again pushes upon her a specific gender stereotype.
As soon as she hits puberty, she is ridiculed by her classmates for having “a great big nose and fat legs”. Slowly these judgments start to affect her self-esteem and make her question herself.
The author here doesn’t forget to mention all the beautiful qualities the girl possesses, which the whole world, including herself, seems to turn a blind eye to because they are so focused on her so-called outward ‘flaws’.
The girl is advised to “play coy”, “exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.” like women her age were expected to do in those times. She is constantly being pressured by society to mould herself according to their unrealistic definition of perfect.
The last part of the poem talks about the girl’s horrifying demise. Worn down by the harsh words of others, she decides to cut off her nose as well as legs. She is buried with a reconstructed face and “turn up nose”. In death, the author ironically mentions how she has finally found the happy ending most women crave for.
Barbie Doll Marge Piercy Analysis Themes
The poem is based around the ideas of feminism, women’s rights and activism and how society continues to oppress women. These themes are explored throughout the poem as the poet delves deeper into what society considers as a “perfect woman”. From the moment the girl child is born, she is burdened with unrealistic expectations that are not possible for any individual to meet.
The Barbie doll is used to symbolize oppression and the unhealthy gender stereotypes women have to face throughout their lives. At last, the woman, tired and exhausted from society’s unfair treatment, cut off her nose and legs, the things she was ridiculed for as an offering to the world. But now that her face was reconstructed and she was nicely dressed, she is finally deemed pretty enough. In the end, this is also what she wanted to meet society’s unrealistic expectations. She died trying, but she finally did.
The poem makes a strong statement on society’s cruelty towards women. It highlights the apathetic and inhumane people who wish to raise superficially pretty slaves for their benefit.
Barbie Doll Marge Piercy Analysis Structure And Form
Barbie Doll by Marge Piercy is a four stanza poem written in free verse, which means that the lines do not use a specific rhyme scheme or pattern. It is an open form of poetry and tends to follow the rhythm of natural speech. It is also a narrative poem that tells a story. The stanzas are relatively close in the line number and line length.
Barbie Doll Marge Piercy Analysis Literary Devices
The poet uses several literary devices; some of them include enjambment, imagery, tone and alliteration.
In poetry, enjambment is referred to as incomplete syntax at the end of a line; the meaning continues from one line to the other.
Imagery is one of the most important poetic devices. It refers to a vivid and clear form of description of a person, place or object that appeals to the reader’s imagination and triggers their senses.
The tone is the way in which the speaker of the poem talks. It refers to the voice, and the distant vocabulary used. Barbie doll features a variety of tones. At first, the tone is a bit juvenile. The speaker uses words like “pee-pee”. But as the story progresses and the speaker grows, the vocabulary also grows. There are words like “dexterity”, “exhorted”,, etc.
Alliteration is the conspicuous repetition of usually initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables. It is useful to increase the rhythmic flow of a poem, especially one written in free verse.
Barbie Doll Marge Piercy Analysis Stanzas
The first stanza begins with a girl child being born fitting perfectly into a mould provided by society. The stanza lists toys every little girl might play with, like miniature GE stoves, dolls and irons. She was also given lipstick, compared to cherry candy. In this patriarchal and sexist society, women are deemed fit for only cooking and cleaning in the household.
This, alongside the makeup she was given, shows that girls are taught to conform to a specific gender stereotype from a very young age without even realizing it. The doll plays an important part in this stanza. The Barbie Doll has been a role model for young girls and an icon of American culture since it was created in 1959, a little over 10 years before this poem was published. If a “boychild” were given these same toys to play with, the reaction of the people would have been totally different.
The speaker, and author, is trying to make one question the ways in which we are so used to treating children of different genders. In the context of the poem, the Barbie Doll ends up having a negative impact on the girl’s life, creating a poor self-body image and making her question herself and her capabilities. At the end of the stanza, the girl hits puberty, and someone in the girl’s class commented
Some negative things about her body, saying she had a large nose and fat thighs. At this point, her insecurities get worse, and throughout the poem, she spends her time and effort trying to meet the unrealistic and ever-changing standards of beauty that her Barbie doll had represented.
The second stanza is about the girl growing up. The poet mentions how the girl is intelligent and healthy and has good qualities. She was how a normal girl her age should be. But still, she suffers from extreme self-image issues due to the negative comments she receives. She kept feeling the need to apologize for the way she is. This stanza shows us how society focuses more on outward beauty than what’s truly inside a woman and her capabilities.
In the first line, the girl is advised to be how society wants a proper girl child to be. She was encouraged to “exercise, diet, smile and wheedle”. In other words, society expects a girl to put others happiness over hers and serve others before she can look after herself. She is advised to keep her body in great shape and smile at all times.
In the third stanza, she receives counsel from people around her. They continuously point out her flaws and suggest her the ways in she could conform to society’s ideal woman.
This shows the sexist expectations the patriarchal society puts on women of all ages. The girl is easily influenced by society’s expectations as she has conformed to society since she was a little girl. At first, the girl tries to please everyone and be happy, but soon her good nature wears out. She can no longer deal with society’s pressure to be an ideal woman.
In the end, she’s so worn down that she ends up killing herself, trying to be the perfect version of a woman that society wants her to be. She finally gave society her legs and nose, the things she were criticized for as a final offering to this cruel world.
The fourth and the final stanza talks about the girl’s heartbreaking demise. She ultimately died trying to be as perfect as the Barbie doll she was given to as a kid. She was unable to reach an unrealistic yet highly encouraged standard pushed upon women because of the deep-rooted sexism in society. She lay in her casket, all dolled up and pretty.
Society had finally moulded her the way they wanted her and every other girl to be but at the cost of her life. Now that she was covered in makeup and her face was reconstructed, she was finally considered pretty enough. The last line of the stanza shows us that this is all the girl wanted, to fit into society’s perfect mould. She strove and strove to meet their unrealistic demands, and when she died trying, she finally did. She finally accomplished the only goal she had since she was a child.
Society is finally able to mould the woman into an acceptable form, but not before she has died. The poet shows how the girl who has always felt inadequate in her life finally could receive the praise that she always wished to hear.
Even on her deathbed, society decides to change her body since that is what matters. No one ever looks back on how she died or what led her to take her own life in such a tragic way. The only thing they focus on after a bright, young was gone is how her body looks and how nice the makeup on her face looks without a spirit.
The girl in the poem was born innocent and naïve, just like any other girl but because of the sexist and misogynist society she was born and raised in, she became corrupted. This poem tells the heartbreaking story of a girl who died trying to please society and her people.
Since childhood, she was taught to cook, clean and care, just like how an ideal woman, according to society, is supposed to be. Because of these sexist and patriarchal influences, she was never completely satisfied with who she was: a beautiful person inside out. At last, the torments of society cost the girl her life.
About Marge Piercy
Marge Piercy was born in Detroit into a working-class depressed family. Piercy was the first member of her family to attend college, winning a scholarship to attend the University of Michigan. She earned an MA from Northwestern University. It is evident that Piercy was interested in politics, and during the time of the 1960s, Piercy was an organizer in political movements such as the Students for a Democratic Society and the movement against the Vietnam war, an engagement that has shaped her work in myriad ways.
Perhaps most importantly, though, has been Piercy’s sustained involvement with feminism, a concept very unknown and unpopular back in the 60s Marxism and environmental thought. An extremely talented writer, Piercy has published close to 20 poetry books and almost 20 novels.
Her novels generally deal with larger social concerns and issues through brilliantly observed characters and plot lines. She is generally focused on issues such as class or culture and usually writes from a feminist position; her novels have taken on a variety of guises, including historical fiction and science or speculative fiction.
Her novel He, She, and It, published as Body of Glass in the UK, won that country’s prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award an earlier novel of speculative fiction, Woman on the Edge of Time has been credited as the first work of cyberpunk, a genre that not only gives us a perfect view of our dystopia but also a genre that’d be one of the most famous sci-fi elements in the upcoming years.