preview

Societal Pressures in Boys and Girls, Introduction to A Vindication of the Rights of Women and Barbie Doll

Better Essays
The societal pressures faced by women is, arguably, the main topic of Alice Munro’s short story “Boys and Girls,” Mary Wollstonecraft’s essay “Introduction to A Vindication of the Rights of Women” and Marge Piercy’s poem “Barbie Doll.” “Boys and Girls” deals with those societal pressures faced by women within both the home and family life. Alternatively, “Introduction to A Vindication of the Rights of Women” and “Barbie Doll” deal with those societal pressures faced by women in society at large. All three show how societal pressures are acting against women, but “Introduction to A Vindication of the Rights of Women” and “Barbie Doll” go even further by showing the negative effects of these pressures.

In Alice Munro’s “Boys and Girls” societal pressures are primarily exerted by the older women in a girl’s surroundings. Girls are pressured by their mothers and grandmothers into filling specific roles within both the family and around the house. The behaviour of girls, and in turn women, is the basis of such a pressure. The behaviour of the main character in “Boys and Girls” is often dictated by the older women around her. Her grandmother can often be heard saying things like: ‘“Girls [do not] slam doors”’ (497) and ‘“Girls keep their knees together when they sit”’ (497) reflecting the kind of control older women attempt to exert of the behaviour of younger women. In this society, a girl cannot ask questions because such things are ‘“none of a girl’s business”’ (497). The main character’s mother complains that ‘“[it is] not like I had a girl in the family at all,”’ (495), simply because the girl would rather spend her time helping her father with his work than helping her mother with the, in her opinion, “endless, dreary and pecul...

... middle of paper ...

...related. By all accounts, Mary Wollstonecraft should consider the main character in “Barbie Doll” to be a near perfect woman; she has all of the characteristics that Wollstonecraft believes women should have. And yet she throws it all away for what – to be pretty? Piercy’s “Barbie Doll” is the poetic expression of Wollstonecraft’s eighteenth century woman, revealing just how little has changed in the pressures faced by women in almost two hundred years.

Works Cited

Munro, Alice. “Boys and Girls.” Introduction to Literature 5th ed. Eds. Findlay et al. Toronto: Nelson, 2004. 491-502.

Piercy, Marge. “Barbie Doll.” Introduction to Literature 5th ed. Eds. Findlay et al. Toronto: Nelson, 2004. 316-317.

Wollstonecraft, Mary. “An Introduction to A Vindication of the Rights of Women.” Introduction to Literature 5th ed. Eds. Findlay et al. Toronto: Nelson, 2004. 19-23.
Get Access