Monday, May 5, 2008

Theory Questions on "Barbie Doll"

Piercy, Marge. "Barbie Doll." The Norton Introduction to Poetry. Ed. J. Paul Hunter, Allison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. 9th ed. New York: Norton, 2007. 27-8.

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The theory of gender criticism applies immensely to this poem. The poem focuses on finding self worth from physical appearance, while addressing the standards of beauty that are held for women. Women are the ones that are meant to be physically beautiful and alluring, and, from this poem we can see that these are overwhelming expectations that society has for women. This poem is understood through looking at a woman's role in the world- the thought that all she has to offer, in her role as a woman, is her beauty. The last line of the poem is particularly haunting as it bulks women as a whole and speaks of their need and expectation to be pleasing and concerned with their appearances. There is a lot to be said about our society and the pressure that has been put on women if it is not until a woman's death that she can finally stop searching and seeking the perfect image. Piercy ends her poem commenting on this fact, " To every woman a happy ending" (line 25) - she works to paint the picture that there are so many expectations for a woman that she can never be happy until she is removed from those expectations ( in this poem, that is through death), yet, even when she is dead othere still hold her to those expectations ( she is dressed up with make-up and delicate clothing).

Critical Questions:
1. The woman of this poem is first presented with dolls and miniature stoves and irons. What do these toys say about gender roles and expectations of girls early on in life? Would young boys get different toys? What would those toys say about their gender roles?
2. What is the tone of this poem? How does the speaker of this poem feel about this woman’s life? How does he/she feel about gender roles? Do you think the speaker is a male or female?
3. Why does the speaker specifically mention the fact that woman’s nightgown is pink and white, and that she is wearing cosmetics?

1 comment:

AmyD. said...

I'm not so certian that this poem is as much about finding self worth in beauty but rather finding acceptance because of it. While I do agree the whole part about the world's emphasis on beauty being of one type, I think that the woman being described in the poem seemed much more fed up with society's expectations than attempting to dive into it. The end is very clearly saying that she died trying to be perfect, but in a sense, the reader is almost able to see it as some sort of release for her. Throughout the poem, the reader never hears that the woman actually indulges in the tactics of becoming perfect discussed, it merely mentions what is expected. As a result, the sudden death in the end comes almost as a shock because throughout the entire start of the poem, it seems that the woman would rather embrace her imperfections.