The title Barbie Doll suggests that the writer is about to discuss a child’s toy, maybe a little girl’s prized possession. After reading the poem, is apparent that the title is not about a toy but more about an image of perfection, society’s idea of perfection. I find the author’s comparisons of reality, to society’s image and the effect that it has on young girls very interesting.
Barbie is the kind of doll that is given to almost every little girl at a very young age her and in mind she sees that this doll is perfect in every way, perfect beautiful face, perfect long blonde hair, perfect (very unrealistic) shaped body, and of course there are so many career titles that Barbie has achieved…. Doctor Barbie, Teacher Barbie, President Barbie, Astronaut Barbie, Ambassador for World Peace Barbie…. the list goes on and on.
A toy maker that thought that they were giving little girls options for careers and showing them that they can be anything that they wanted to be but was actually giving little girls the impression that they could or had to achieve all of these careers because “Barbie” did. In the first stanza of the poem “This girlchild was born as usual/ and presented dolls that did pee-pee/ and miniature GE stoves and irons/ and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy/” (835) this is describing that the child is a typical young girl that was given miniature toys that imitated real life.
These items give her a false sense of what real life is like. The last two lines of the first stanza states “Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:/ You have a great big nose and fat legs. ” (835) Puberty is the turning point for every young girl, where her body is changing and she compares her image of herself to what she sees around her and what she has seen in her past, including Barbie the representation of a real woman that she played with in her imaginary world as a child. This is the time when a classmate makes negative remarks about what they see her looks to be like.
These negative remarks stay with her like a loud speaker playing over and over in her head. No matter what is she sees or what is said to her, the vision stuck in her head is that everyone is staring at her “great big nose and fat legs. ” This in no way means that she actually has a big nose or fat legs but now that she has this remark playing over and over in her head, she believes it to be true no matter what she does or how she tries to change herself. None of her finer qualities can even try to outweigh the negative remarks in her head.
In her mind, after trying everything that she could change her image and quiet the loud speaker in her head “her good nature wore out/ like a fan belt. ” (836) Like a worn out fan belt on a vehicle gets old and brittle until it eventually breaks, so did her good nature or her willingness to fight the quest for perfection. “So she cut off her nose and legs/ and offered them up. ” These lines show that she is admitting defeat and removing those parts of imperfection that she cannot change. She has given up on life because she cannot reach her vision of perfection and therefore does not fit into society’s mold of what she thinks she should be.
The last stanza describes her deceased body in the casket at her funeral, painted up with make-up to perfection and with a new nose made of putty, beautifully sculpted just for her. As people often do at a funeral, only kind words are spoken about her, society would find it rude to say anything negative after one has passed from this life. These comments would have been much more helpful if they were said to her in her during her life rather than after her death, although they probably still would not have drowned out the loud echo in her head that has controlled her image of herself.
In the last line the author plays on the words that the woman has a happy ending. These are strong words that are saying that she could not ever be happy in life but could only be truly happy in death, when she no longer has to fight to meet the standards of society. The author gave a strong message about what was happening in the society with young women everywhere and that poor body image and low self-esteem was not only taking young girl’s true spirit but also their lives.
I got that message loud and clear and so I found the author’s words and comparisons to be quite effective. This poem was from 1973 but these words and their meaning still rings true in 2009. It makes me wonder if society will ever get the message that they have the ability to change this image and make a difference. The truth that it shows, no one can ever be truly happy, makes me very sad. Piercy, Marge. “Barbie Doll. ” @ The Norton Introduction to Literature. 9th ed. Ed. Alison Booth, J. Paul Hunter, and Kelly J. Mays. New York: Norton, 2005. 835-36. Print