Analysis of Marge Piercy's "Barbie Doll"

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 604 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Words: 604|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Body Image and Beauty Standards
  2. The Consequences of Unrealistic Expectations
  3. A Critique of Gender Roles
  4. Conclusion

Marge Piercy's poem "Barbie Doll" is a powerful and thought-provoking piece that delves into the societal pressures and expectations placed on young girls. The poem, published in 1973, explores the themes of body image, gender roles, and the damaging effects of societal standards of beauty. Through its vivid imagery and poignant language, Piercy's poem sheds light on the detrimental impact these expectations can have on an individual's sense of self-worth and identity.

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Body Image and Beauty Standards

One of the central themes of "Barbie Doll" is the pressure placed on young girls to conform to societal beauty standards. The poem opens with the description of a young girl who is "presented dolls that did pee-pee" and "miniature GE stoves and irons." These toys reflect the traditional gender roles and expectations imposed on girls from a young age, reinforcing the idea that their primary value lies in domesticity and physical appearance.

As the poem progresses, the focus shifts to the girl's physical appearance, with the speaker noting that she was "healthy, tested intelligent, possessed strong arms and back, abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity." Despite these positive attributes, the girl is ultimately reduced to her physical appearance and is criticized for not being "pretty" enough. This highlights the superficial nature of societal beauty standards and the damaging impact they can have on an individual's self-esteem.

The Consequences of Unrealistic Expectations

"Barbie Doll" also explores the consequences of these unrealistic expectations, particularly in relation to body image and self-worth. The poem's turning point comes with the lines "She went to and fro apologizing" and "Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs." These lines capture the girl's internalized shame and self-loathing, as well as the external judgment and scrutiny she faces from others.

The pressure to conform to an idealized standard of beauty takes a toll on the girl's mental and emotional well-being, leading her to feel inadequate and ashamed of her appearance. This ultimately culminates in the tragic ending of the poem, where the girl "cut off her nose and her legs and offered them up." This final act symbolizes the extreme lengths to which individuals may go to try to fit in and meet societal expectations, even at the expense of their own physical and emotional integrity.

A Critique of Gender Roles

Additionally, "Barbie Doll" serves as a critique of traditional gender roles and the ways in which they limit individual potential and self-expression. The poem highlights the narrow parameters within which girls and women are expected to operate, emphasizing physical appearance and domesticity over intelligence, creativity, and personal fulfillment.

By portraying the girl as a victim of these restrictive gender norms, Piercy challenges the notion that a woman's worth is contingent on her appearance and ability to conform to societal expectations. The poem calls attention to the damaging effects of these gender roles and the importance of challenging and dismantling them in order to foster a more inclusive and empowering society for all individuals.

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In conclusion, Marge Piercy's "Barbie Doll" offers a searing critique of the societal pressures and expectations placed on young girls, particularly in relation to body image, beauty standards, and gender roles. The poem serves as a powerful reminder of the damaging impact these expectations can have on an individual's sense of self-worth and identity, as well as the importance of challenging and dismantling these harmful societal norms. Through its evocative imagery and poignant language, "Barbie Doll" continues to resonate with readers and spark important conversations about the need for greater acceptance, inclusivity, and empowerment in our society.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

Analysis of Marge Piercy’s “Barbie Doll”. (2024, March 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from
“Analysis of Marge Piercy’s “Barbie Doll”.” GradesFixer, 20 Mar. 2024,
Analysis of Marge Piercy’s “Barbie Doll”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 Jun. 2024].
Analysis of Marge Piercy’s “Barbie Doll” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 20 [cited 2024 Jun 19]. Available from:
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