The elegy “Barbie Doll,” by Marge Piercy is an allegoric portrait of the negative traditions in which females have been forced into accepted wisdom of their bodies and manners in relation to a patriarchal idyllic. This principle is a slender hitherto curved body structure, with proportioned, ideal facial quality. The protagonist in Marge’s “Barbie Doll” gives up her own self image to accomplish the societal expectations of an ideal woman, a structure of community society dominated by the male species with their expectations on the ultimate ladies.
The literature gives the illustration of a girl child’s life who due to dislikes her body structure as a result of the pressure imposed by the cultural society. The girl since birth lives to learn the societal expectation, standards of which she is yet to come to terms with. Being who she is, and not what the society expects, the girl ends up hating herself. The urge to subsist up to the world’s design of good looks gears existence of vicious personal scrutiny that snuffle down every bit of her self-assurance preventing her from appreciating whichever part of herself. It is due to disparity that the girl chooses to endure an existence constrained by regulations she believes will direct to contentment.
In the poem the poet uses short stanzas to bring out a scornful evaluation of the cultural and societal prospect that American society spaces on personalities, especially young girls. The character undergoes a petite synopsis of life all through the piece of narrative, beginning at birth. The whole poem is in black and white with a tone of dejection and melancholy. The young girl brought out as “[going] to and fro apologizing,” about her culturally deplorable likeness brings out the sad mood for she is sorry for what is beyond her control.
Her body structure is not hypothetical to be mistaken in an experimental sense, but on the other hand, she does not possess the qualities that America compares and contrasts with the “perfect woman”. The young girl was “presented dolls that did pee-pee/ and miniature GE stoves and irons/ and wee lipsticks the colour of cherry candy” While she was young. The account resonates with the representation of the reader’s past occurrence as there are many illustrations well-known to most Americans provided, like the use of “the brand name of General Electric”. Though “she was healthy, tested intelligent/ possessed strong arms and back/ abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity,” personality that would be well thought-out to be the height of “satisfaction,” she was undesirable to culture. She is portrayed as possessing many good traits, but is incompetent of considering them for herself; once she gazes in the mirror, what she sees is “a great big nose and fat legs (L 6)”. Since the society tells her she requires looking a specific way so as to be striking, this “girl child (L1)” becomes annulled of all personality.
The pressure to conform to society’s ideal image distorts her self-image to the point where she cannot see any positive quality about herself; instead of taking pride in her assets, she goes “ to and fro apologizing” for her inadequacies. The belief that she is unattractive leads her to become obsessed with the obtainment of what she expects will finally bring her happiness: perfection. In order to achieve her goal, she lives according to guidelines: “advised to play coy,/ exhorted to come on hearty,/ exercise, diet, smile, and wheedle (L 12-14).” The teenager tries to bring out an image that is pleasing to everyone at first, but this leads to “Her good nature wore out.” In the following stanza, Piercy points out how the society now appreciates her false image. The fact that her old but real image has died and lays in a “casket”, and is replaced by a plastic image of makeup, the society now accepts her. “Doesn’t she look pretty? Everyone said. / Consummation at last. / to every woman a happy ending.” This is ironical because it is not acquired in the merits of her nature or personality. She was forced by societal standards to compromise with her image so that she can even be able to get married.
The sacrifices women make in the name of good looks and appearance is not always worth the cost. Women suffer because of their appearance. Piercy says, “so she cuts off her legs…” (17) Barbie Doll is a representation of the societal expectation of a woman’s looks. The writer gave a well-known Doll name to contrast woman with it. Little girls are given Barbie Doll’s gifts, the love them as they are attractive. The girls’ traits begin to develop on what they are receiving and considering in her upbringing. They sacrifice their lives to appear like Barbie Dolls which is not possible. These poor girls start to experience painful situations, and they build up concern, despair, and self-concern. They see the image of a culture that emphasizes that women should be embodied and have an attractive guy. This leads to lose of confidence and they become inferior and weak.
The poem is actually a parable of what happens to women in a male dominated community. This poem sounds a warning to women to be careful on how they let the society and culture to transform their identities. It is a urge to women in the whole humanity to take precaution lest they match up themselves to idealized philosophy of feminine beauty or mannerisms.
It is good for everyone to be themselves. One should not manipulate their lifestyle and character to suite other people’s expectations. It is not that we should be judged and thought in solitary, elevated principles, but fairly that we should be arbitrated each according to our own standards.
Alison, B. (2001). Poetry: authorotative texts, criticism. New York: Norton.
Alison, B. (2010). The Norton Introduction. W.W. Norton & Company: New York.
John, R. (2001). Poetry: an introduction. New York: New University Press.