The second stanza of the poem "Barbie Doll" lines (7-11) shows two different views of the girl. What are the two different views and how do they contradict each other?

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

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The second stanza of Marge Piercy's poem "Barbie Doll" provides the audience with a direct characterization of the unnamed character whom the poem is about: a young and happy girl who, after hitting puberty as a healthy young woman, is told that she is not "pretty enough". Hence, she begins a journey of self-deprecation and of social submission to the expectations of others, ending up dying as a person.

The stanza reads

She was healthy, tested intelligent,
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.

What we see here is a young, healthy woman with a good head on her shoulders. This means that, prior to being judged by society, the woman finds nothing wrong with herself; she is "intelligent" and "strong". She is all-woman: sensuous, talented and most importantly, she is healthy. With this description Piercy is advocating in favor of the well-being of women over the superficial value place on their looks and their manners.

However, the second half of the stanza shows a shockingly dramatic contrast; this strong, intelligent, talented woman is seen now apologizing for being the way that she is. Here we see an insecure, traumatized, perhaps devalued female who fell under the pressure of social "acceptance". Now, we see someone who does not feel worthy, nor happy. This is because, despite of all her positive qualities, she still would not fit the mold from which all women are expected to replicate.

Therefore the second stanza contrasts the woman before and after her social judgement. The superfluous value placed on the exterior of women takes away their own self-love by completely exterminating their pride.

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