Barbie Doll’ written by Marge Piercy (1973)
This girlchild was born as usual
And presented dolls that did pee-pee
And miniature GE stoves and irons
And wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs.
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.
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.
So she cut off her nose and her legs
And offered them up.
In the casket displayed on satin she lay
With the undertaker’s cosmetics painted on,
A turned-up putty nose,
Dressed in a pink and white nightie.
Doesn’t she look pretty? Everyone said.
Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.
Robert Frost beautifully said that “Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat”. In fact, poems are all about expressing deep secretly kept feelings through the handling of language. Poetry is a shareable and universal language of specific states of heart to which any reader can identify himself/herself. It is the voice which says the truth. Quite often, delicate subjects lead to sensitive poem like the one of Marge Piercy that we are now going to scan. In the following stanzas, the poetess portrays the hard life of an innocent girl, victim of the society criteria.
The poem has been shaped according to three leading themes: innocence, persecution and death, as we will now see.
First of all, if we closely look at the first stanza, the most important one, the innocence of childhood is being depicted through the musicality of the verses. There is an assonance in “i” which sounds like a childish voice (world of innocence) and an alliteration in “s” which insists on the smoothness of this universe. Meanwhile, we will notice that the poetess does know the little girl as she uses the definite pronoun “This” (verse 1). She describes her as being innocent, naïve and passive as shown by the passive form: “was born; was presented” (verses 1-2). During her childhood, everything seems to go on quite well: she plays with girl games like “dolls; GE stoves; lipsticks” (v.1-4) and she is living a “magic puberty” (v.5). Unfortunately, however, a gloomy menace is slowly arising. In the fifth verse, the adverb “Then in the magic of puberty” introduces a turning point in the poem, an event which will have an impact upon the little girl’s life. Both the assonance in “a” in the sixth verse and the preterit “said” in the active form break the curse of the poem. It calls on the onomatopoeia “ah ah ah” which insists on the muckraking of the girl by her bully. Her life may never be the same as the magic of her puberty has been tarnished.
If we now consider the second stanza, we have the very first depiction of the...