Saturday, May 10, 2008

Close reading: "Barbie Doll" by Marge Percy

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.

By using the word "girlchild" the poem emphasizes the fact that this child is a girl and it makes her seem unimportant as she was "born as usual." Including children's toys and using adjectives to show that these toys are small to fit the child and using the word "pee-pee" and relating the lipstick to "cherry candy" play up the youth being described in this stanza. In saying that the toys were "presented" to the girl shows that she had no choice in the matter, she was expected to play with dolls and stoves and put on play make up. The objects that the girl is given show that the girls is expected to grow up a housewife; the "dolls that did pee-pee" prepare her for having children of her own, "the miniature GE stoves and irons" will be appliances she will use to cook for her husband and iron his clothes, and the lipstick will be worn to look pleasing to him. Using the word "magic" to describe puberty exemplifies the mystery of growing up and how children don't understand what is happening to their body; it suddenly begins to change right before their eyes. Finally, the classmate criticizing the girl shows how a female's appearance is judged and how harmful it can be to a young girl's self esteem. These harsh words of the classmate come in the same line as the girl is said to hit puberty to show how the adolescent years really shape a person and how they are confused by what is happening to their body and how the words of others can affect how an adolescent views themself.

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