In lines 12-16 of the poem "Barbie Doll", what comment is the author making about the way teen girls are viewed?

1 Answer | Add Yours

herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Marge Piercy's commentary poetry on the social pressures bestowed upon women make "Barbie Doll" a memorable poem that exposes the unfair expectations that women are meant to comply with.

Lines 12-16 explain the pressures of the unnamed main character as she reaches puberty. Although she is a young, healthy and pretty normal girl, the fact that her legs are considered fat and her nose is considered big set her as a social outcast that is not even worthy of sympathy. As a result she is asked to mold herself according to what the Status Quo considers acceptable:

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.

In other words, teenage girls are meant to be seen and not heard. They must enamour with their gestures and actions; they cannot attempt to change anything but themselves; they should represent submissive compliance. They should do for themselves whatever society decides that they should do for themselves, such as "exercise, diet, smile, and wheedle".

The poem tells us that when she had enough she "cut her legs and her nose". This is another way to explain how she, the real person that she is within, dies as a result of giving in. With a dead soul in a lifeless, unhappy body, she is finally considered "beautiful". This is why the ironic last verse of the poem reads:

Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,936 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question