Thursday, April 14, 2011

Poem 1: Barbie Doll by Marge Piercy

 Barbie Doll
 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.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs. 

She was healthy, tested intelligent,
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs. 

She was advised to play coy,
exhorted to come on hearty,
exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.
Her good nature wore out
like a fan belt.
So she cut off her nose and her legs
and offered them up. 

In the casket displayed on satin she lay
with the undertaker's cosmetics painted on,
a turned-up putty nose,
dressed in a pink and white nightie.
Doesn't she look pretty? everyone said.
Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.

Analysis
       In Piercy's poem, Barbie Doll, the main idea of this piece is to emphasize how suppressed women were when she was growing up. To back this up, in her first few lines, she writes "this girl child was...presented dolls that did pee-pee...miniature GE stoves and irons". The list of gifts given to this "girlchild" are typically objects that women were supposed to use when they grow older. The idea, back in her time, was that women were to cook, clean, and take care of the household. By saying that she was given these things at such a young age, she emphasizes how suppressed the "girlchild" is.
       "In the magic of puberty", the "girlchild" grows a "great big nose and fat legs", according to a fellow classmate. Even in school, Piercy emphasizes how bad women and girls were treated throughout her childhood, which was around the late 30's to early 50's. 
        Despite being put down by a patriarchal society, the 'girlchild' is "healthy, tested intelligent...strong", indicating that she is truly a normal girl, but her "fat nose on thick legs" make her an imperfect person in that type of society. 
       'Girlchild' is furthermore demanded to "play coy...exercise, diet, smile, and wheedle", all of the things that she seems to not naturally want to do. When Marge Piercy writes, "she cut off her nose and her legs", she does not actually mean that 'girlchild' did this drastic act. It is a hyperbole. Piercy means that she  has tried to cut off the shackles that society has chained to her to make her a woman that she is clearly not. In the last stanza, we see that 'girlchild' has surrendered to a patriarchal society, and is unhappy as she is "in the casket displayed", dressed up in a ridiculous attire. She is on display to the world as someone she wishes not to be. 



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