Marge Piercy’s Barbie Doll

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Margie Pearcy's "Barbie Doll"

Margie Pearcy's "Barbie Doll" details the image that society projects upon and expects from its young female population. From an early age these young women struggle to conform to the standards that society has defined for them. The results often are disastrous, leading to emotional conflicts that are often difficult if not impossible to resolve.
Beautiful, flawless dolls such as Barbie are frequently the first source of association that little girls have with the values placed on them by society. Parents give little toddlers dolls, miniature stoves, and cherry-candy colored lipsticks (2-4) for playthings. This would seem innocent enough, but already the guidelines are being set for what society at large expects girls to be. At this young age, little girls cannot really differ from what is expected since they are under the complete influence of their parents.
Engulfed with these types of presents, the child is already learning her role in society. In puberty, during these most tumultuous years, the girl child is dealt a cruel blow by a peer who tells her she has a "big nose and fat legs" (5-6). Here we see the beginning of the conflict that will plague the young girl.
The second of stanza of "Barbie Doll" demonstrates the inner conflict these young girls are experiencing as they become acutely aware of how different they may be from what society perceives as the ideal female. Although a girl can be healthy and intelligent, it is not expected for her to possess the physical qualities of "strong arms and back, abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity" (8-9). These typify male traits, and young girls begin to perceive these as negative and unnatural for themselves. Feeling less than

Page 2 worthy or valuable, the girl feels she owes society an apology for possessing these characteristics (10). Percy drive the point home by writing, "everyone saw a fat nose on big legs" (11). This l...

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... "dressed in a pink and white nightie"
(22) in order to maintain the ultimate feminine image. Tragically and ironically, the girl is recognized as pretty only in death as noted in line 23. Even here, however, society fails to see the "real" person. They see the image that a misguided society has created. The author writes, "Consummation at last" (24) to convey to us that in death the girl has achieved society's goal for her, to mold her into a real life Barbie Doll. "To every woman a happy ending" (25) continues society's deception that a woman is happy and fulfilled if she possesses physical beauty and acts in a certain manner.
"Barbie Doll" offers a sad but realistic view of the drastic consequences that can occur from living in a society that judges young women by unrealistic, false, and superficial values. Too often society fails young women by refusing to recognize, appreciate, and value true beauty, that which lies in young girls' hearts, spirits, and characters. These are the only true things that make a young lady beautiful, and the only qualities that can provide lasting happiness.

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