Analysis of Marge Piercy’s Poem 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.

Advanced Placement Formant-

1.Who is the speaker in the poem?

The poem Barbie Doll contains a girl that is struggling with her body image. The speaker in the poem is the observer, watching this girl deal with different experiences relating to her body image. Casey Garland states in her essay, “The speaker is not aware of her feelings about what is happening.” The speaker is telling the story about the struggles that the young girl faces. The speaker could also be Marge Piercy herself. In her life she struggled with the feeling of not being accepted because of her looks.

2. Who is the audience of the poem?

The audience that Marge is trying to address is America itself. She is speaking to society and communicating the theme of the poem to them. Even a more specific audience would be young girls. The poem is specifically telling a story about a young girl, so it is reaching out to young girls specifically through the story and the theme.

3. What is the situation and setting of the poem?

Marge portrays the situation as the childhood of a young girl. The girl goes through many of the hardships of being a teenage girl. She is experiencing troubles with being accepted by the people around her. The girl tries everything to be accepted by society but it is not enough. There is no specific setting in the poem. It more takes place over a period of time in the girls life.

4. State the poem’s central idea or theme in a single sentence.

The theme of the poem is: Society is not accepting of people who do not represent the “ideal” women.

5. Describe the structural pattern of the poem.

The structure of the poem: Marge Piercy writes her poem in 4 stanzas. In the first two sentences in each stanza, she ends them with commas. Then in the last sentences she ends with periods. She wrote the poems in free verse. There is no specific rhyme pattern in the poem. Since the poem is almost told in a story-like manner, each stanza helps break the story into four different parts in the girls life and and what happens after she dies. The first stanza sets the scene. It describes the barbie accesories, and describes how the girl was just a normal girl. The last line in the stanza serves as a transition from a happy girl to a girl who is being bullied by society. The second stanza explains that she is a perfectly healthy girl on the inside, but on the outside the girl is not excepted by society, even though she is perfectly healthy. The third stanza shows how society is forcing this perfectly healthy girl into unhealthy habits, just to change the way she looks. At the end of the stanza the girl pays the ultimite price to be accepted into society. The last and final stanza serves as a conclusion where Piercy shows the main theme of the poem. the only way society can accept the girl is if she is perfect.

6. Comment on the poem’s diction:

The Diction in the poem adds emphasis to the words that are descriptive in the poem. It helps create a vivid picture for the reader and add emotion.

7. Is imagery dominant?

Imagery is very dominant in this poem. Piercy uses very strong words and sentences that are very descriptive. For example the words she uses in the first couple lines. “and presented dolls that did pee-pee/ and miniature GE stoves and irons/ and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.” (Lines 2-3). It is easy to imagine the little Barbie accessories that children play with. I remember playing with all the little Barbie accessories. Anyway, Piercy also uses great imagery to show the girls experiences with great detail. Her imagery is especially shines through in lines 17 through 25. Throughout these lines, Piercy compares the young girl to a Barbie doll. But in the end the girl suffers the ultimate price. Piercy is able to portray her theme through he imagery. “Doesn’t she look pretty? everyone said./
Consummation at last.
/To every woman a happy ending.” (23-25) Piercy is showing that society is finally accepting her because she has been made over, even though it is not truly herself. Piercy uses strong imagery in this poem.

8. Is the poem narrative or lyric?

The poem is more narrative. The poem is narrative because it is telling a story. Piercy writes this poem in a way of facts. “The poem is told in a matter-of-fact way, much like a Barbie storybook or movie” (Garland). Piercy tells the story from beginning to end of how society can “ruin” a young girl. See the way I explained the story in question number 5 about structure. The structure of the poem tells the story in a narrative way.

9. Comment on Figurative Language:

“By using similes, and a fairy tale-like tone, the author creates a cosmos starring a suicidal young lady instead of Barbie, the glamorous sex symbol the girl is compared to throughout the poem.” (Garland). Throughout the poem Piercy compares a barbie doll to a young girl through figurative language. An example would be lines 15-16. “Her good nature wore out
/like a fan belt.” She is describing the girls nature is diminishing, just like a fan belt. This is a and example of a simile in the poem. Marge uses figurative language to show the change that the young girl goes through to become more accepted into society.

10. Explain and Symbols.

“The author uses Barbie in the poem to symbolize society’s views of what the perfect female should aspire to be.” (Garland). Also, all of the features on the girl I the casket symbolize what girls are expected to be. “A turned-up putty nose,
/dressed in a pink and white nightie.” (21-22). The putty nose symbolizes the “perfect nose” for a girl, even though it is very unrealistic. The clothes that the girl is in symbolizes “colors that represent purity and femininity, pink and white” (Garland). There are many symbols in the poem that represents societies need for women to be perfect.

Scholarly Sources:

6 Responses to “Analysis of Marge Piercy’s Poem Barbie Doll”

  1.   Jane Hazle Says:

    Good work combining your own understanding of the poem with comments from an academic source. Each category is fully developed.

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