What is the parable here? How can you tell the age of "Barbie Doll"?

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teachertaylor's profile pic

teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The parable in Marge Piercy’s poem “Barbie Doll” has to do with a girl who has grown up under American cultural influences that suggest the strict standards of beauty that define women in society.  When the girl does not live up to these standards, she attempts to physically alter herself through surgery, and when she cannot cope with her life, she meets a tragic end.  The poem speaks to the destructive nature of false cosmetic beauty standards that are a part of our everyday lives, standards that are upheld by both the media and social circles.  The poem attacks these conventional standards of beauty and calls for a change in mindset.  “Barbie Doll” was published in 1973, and a reader can place the poem in this time frame by noting some of the context clues that Piercy includes in the poem.  “[D]olls that did pee-pee and miniature GE stoves and irons” were popular toys around that time period and thus give an indication as to when the poem was written.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The parable in this poem is saying that women are killing themselves (literally and, more often, figuratively) in order to look more like Barbie dolls.

In the poem, the girl is a perfectly normal girl, but then people start telling her she's too fat (or her legs are) etc, because she doesn't look like some version of perfection.  This leads her to become very insecure and eventually kill herself.

The poem is most likely recent because concern about women and body image issues have only become prominent in the last 30 years or so.  Barbie has been around for about 50 years, but people didn't worry about her much before the '70s.

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tpazos | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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The poem was written in 1973, actually!

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