As women, we are born into this world with high expectations. There is an image of perfection that our parents could only hope we fulfill; but as parents love us no matter what our physical outcome may be, society, on the other hand, does not so understand. Barbie Doll by Marge Piercy is a painfully honest eye-opening poem dwelling on the severity of an average girl feeling as if she is not beautiful enough. The crucial elements of poetry include imagery, similes, symbolism, a strong persona, tone, and setting.
The pressures of society drive people to talk and look the way people think it wants them to; but there is only so much pressure a fragile human being can take, before they break. The dramatic situation that comes along with a young girl being told she must be better is when she finally decides to end her tragedy and that she would rather be dead. The speaker portrays “This girlchild” who “was born as usual” (1) and “was healthy, and tested intelligent” (7)meaning she was no more average then the next child.
She was as normal as children come, down to having plastic stoves and irons and lipsticks and dolls. But when puberty took over, her physical title was having “a great big nose and fat legs” (11). Being desperate to have people accept her, the girl went around apologizing for her appearance and desperately trying to compensate for it and still, all people saw was a fat nose on thick legs. As if this were not enough, the people surrounding her (society) told her how to talk, act, keep her body, eat, and what she should look like to get people to like her.
These were all requests that were impossible to fill and the girlchild became too aware of this. After what seems like years of this mental abuse, the girl took action. The pressure of society literally led her to cut off her big nose and her legs to offer them up and see the reaction society gave her then. This is the climax of the dramatic situation; the girl took her own life because of young society’s unimportant and outspoken opinion. After the girl is dead and gone, she is displayed in a casket with a new nose made of putty and dressed in beautiful clothing and make-up. Doesn’t she look pretty? everyone said. ” (23) She was finally exactly the way society wants her to be and unappreciated till her horrific death. The most important and prominent element of poetry in Barbie Doll is symbolism. The poem starts with a strong symbol of every-day toys that girls have: dolls, miniature GE stoves and irons, and lipsticks the color of cherry candy. These items are symbolic for everything around you being fake, yet expected. It displays that even as a small child, society shows you what and how you need to be in order to mesh with the rest of the population.
The doll represents perfection, with its perfect hair and body and face, an image of what society wants girls to look like. Miniature stoves and irons, symbolizing those good girls stay where the chores are. It displays a sexist outlook society conveys to girls throughout their lives. The make-up she owned meant to cover up any imperfection that existed, reminding her you aren’t beautiful without it. The next symbol is her great big nose and fat legs. This symbolizes imperfection or an outlier to what is “expected”.
When the girl cuts off her own nose and legs, it is symbolic for her rebellion against society as if she were saying “You win, world, take my imperfections and leave me for dead. ” Lastly, her apologetic nature represents that she too thought bad of her looks and would do anything to get people to like her or understand, even being sorry for something completely out of her control. Imagery is a gruesome element in the poem. While reading, you imagine a horribly ugly girl, who apparently is the only child not fit to be treated like everyone else.
The lack of acceptance surrounding her is followed by the image of her taking a knife to her own body and ultimately killing herself in attempt to rid of her imperfections and mock society who would never receive the girl she was supposed to be until she ended her life. The persona of the poem is a young girl in a very dark place. She is never resentful or mean to those who do not take her feelings into consideration, but sad and desperate to just see society let her in and forget that she is not a shiny plastic Barbie doll.
There is not a distinct setting leaving the reader to assume it is set in a modern suburban society with families and children that are constantly close in range. With the setting left up to the reader, the author allows them to connect with the girl by creating a setting that they’re familiar with and being able to empathize with the character. A simile is inquired when after being told exactly what to be, “Her good nature wore out like a fan belt” (15-16). A fan belt is an essential engine component to a vehicle.
Though the girl’s good nature kept her sane and able to move past her imperfections, it slowly deteriorated by the harsh remarks of others until she could not go on any longer. The tone of this poem is callous yet melancholy. The author provides short clipped statements that tell the story with little detail, yet just enough to effect the reader with a sympathetic mood. The author states that the girl “offered them up” referring to her nose and legs. This conveys the hopelessness of the girl in her last attempt to get rid of her imperfections as she perished.
The speaker furthers their tone with explaining the innocent ascent from childhood to a horrific fate later in life. The poem ends with a twist of irony when society looks in her casket and calls her beautiful and says “consummation at last” and the final words are “to every woman a happy ending”. When the girl is finally at peace and no longer terrorized by society is when society finally appreciates her. It conveys how ruthless society is. The girl cut off her imperfections that were criticized so harshly and yet there is no sorrow or shame society feels.
The last sentence reminds the reader after the poem that the only “happy ending” is death itself and that the opinions of society that lead to such awful acts do not end until you do. People do not realize just how much words can affect people’s actions. Though every case may not be as extreme as Piercy has portrayed, it is a realistic example of how harsh we are on each other. The elements of poetry all uniformly contribute to one universal theme and support each other in doing so. Symbols aid in helping the reader go deeper than just reading words on a page, the tone keeps the reader aware that the actions in the oem are not acceptable, the strong simile of the fan belt reminisces on how essential one’s good nature is, the open setting lets the reader make his or her own relation to the happenings in the poem, the persona makes the reader empathize the feelings of a young girl’s struggles, and the twisted irony makes the reader confused but careful of what he or she says to another person. Overall the author conveys to the reader the brutal, unwarranted opinions society offers to people that may lead to one offering up their life in return.