In her poem ‘ Barbie Doll,’ Marge Piercy discusses society’s expectations from women, particularly young girls. Society does expect that young girl should be perfect, like a ‘Barbie Doll’. The poem is about a character who fights with herself about having a perfect body image. This character struggles and shows that society only pays attention to physical appearance and not on inner beauty. Piercy also maintains that people put more social expectations on young girls. Lastly, she mentions that society never accepts young girls who can not be ideal women. As young girls grow up, the society wants them to look and behave a specific way, but when they give up, they might lose identities. Throughout the poem, Piercy applies vivid imagery, different word choices, and a tone of sadness and depression to make her readers more compassionate.
Marge Piercy uses the image of a barbie to write about culture of society. Piercy uses vivid imagery when she started the poem, ‘ and presented dolls that did pee-pee/and miniature GE stoves and irons/and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy’ (2-4). In this set, Piercy describes girl’s typical nature. She uses ‘pee-pee’ to show the ‘ potty exercise.’ of girls. The poet also implies that girls are ready to be mothers. The ‘stoves and irons’ are used in the poem for ‘cooking and cleaning’ and show the type of work girls supposed to do. They also describe ideal duties of a mother and they are mentioned to show that girls are ready to do housewives’s tasks. ‘Wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy’ indicate make-up as a basic and essential part of every girl. The poet mentioned lipstick as a tool a typical girl uses to increase sexuality and look pretty. Piercy once again takes help of imagery to show young girls in their early twenties, ‘ she was healthy, tested intelligent/ possessed strong arms and back'(7-8). These words list all the good characteristics of a girl, but they are not good enough for a girl because she is not pretty. These words further explain that young girls are looked more physically than everything else. In short, society puts more pressure on young girl’s good look.
Word choice is another important aspect that supports the theme of this poem. Piercy uses a variety of words in relatively short poem. Some of the words Piercy uses are unusual. For example, she does start the poem by calling the newly born baby girl a ‘girlchild’. She could have used the word a ‘ girl. ‘ The poet combines these two simple words ‘girl’ and ‘child’ to emphasize the child’s innocence in this poem. Usually, girls are more innocent that boys and children are more innocent than adults. She uses this word choice to explain the innocence of a baby girl. This innocence will disappear when a baby girl turns into a teenager and finally when she commits suicide against society’s expectations.
The last element that Piercy uses to make her poem very interesting is careful use of different tones. These tone change throughout the poem. Piercy uses blend of different tones including flat, neutral, sarcastic, sad, depression, struggle and death. She uses sarcastic tone when she says ‘ to every woman a happy ending’ (24). This line describes how the society turned down a young girl’s thought that she has to turn herself in to a good shape and look like a Barbie Doll in order to achieve a happy ending. With this tone, readers can assume how the society is obsessed about good look and shape from young girls and eventually force them to kill themselves. Physical appearance is just a superficial thing and one can not have happiness based only on this characteristic. Overall, the writer takes a negative tone toward end of the poem. Piercy created the complete poem with a tone of sadness and depression.
In conclusion, in her poem ‘Barbie Doll,’ Piercy precisely applies all these elements to draw the reader’s attention for society’s expectations from young girls. Overall, this poem is written thoroughly and thoughtfully. Society always have control over individuals, especially young girls on how to behave, dress and eat. Society does not accept young girls who do not present ‘ideal women’ characteristics. It pays more attention on physical looks rather than inner beauty. Throughout the poem, the writer uses variety of tones including flat, neutral and somewhat sarcastic tone. At the end, Piercy mentions that a girl looks beautiful in her casket because she was made up to look her best. Piercy explains the meaning of inner beauty by presenting this poem with use of powerful imagery, careful word choice and a tone of sadness and depression.
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