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The Impact Of Societal Standards Essay

985 words - 4 pages

Societies have always consisted of standards in which the general population are expected to conform to. Some are more important to meet than others, and some are placed upon individuals based on their specific demographic criteria, such as gender. “Barbie Doll” by Marge Piercy and “The Unknown Citizen” by W. H. Auden both display this desire for members of society to conform to the standards issued by the majority. Both of these poems share a similarity in their structure, along with the presence of other people and their role on the main characters’ life. The piece by Piercy goes on to show the more detrimental effects of standards, whereas Auden’s is more subtle. Elements of ...view middle of the document...

” (Line 29). This statement shows how the man was really nothing more than what people thought of him. In “Barbie Doll” the woman tried to “exercise, diet, smile and wheedle” (Line 14) to rid herself of her “great big nose and fat legs” (Line 6), which were seen as undesirable by her peers; at one point she realizes she will never meet their goals, and takes life into her own hands.“The Unknown Citizen,” features a man who is judged by the objects he possesses, such as “a phonograph, a radio, a car, and frigidaire” (Line 21). He, unlike in “Barbie Doll,” met his stereotypical standards, so, at the end of his life no one ever assumed he could have been anything less than happy because they only ever knew him by his possessions and ability to pay his bills.

These stories both take place after the deaths of the characters; however, the characters take on very different demises. The “Barbie Doll” girl was so fed up with how she was judged that she finally took matters into her own hands and mutilated herself to death, by “cut[ting] off her nose and her legs” (Line 17). After she died, an undertaker applied her make up in a beautiful way and crafted her a new nose, one that had a slight upturn. It is simple to imagine her looking like a Barbie doll new in its box while she is laying in her casket. She was judged on her beauty even after she died. The death is ambiguous in “The Unknown Citizen;” however, it is implied that he couldn’t have been sad because he conformed to others’ expectations. In the end, the author asks if the man was free and if he was happy; the author then switches to first person and answers for himself, saying he couldn’t have been sad.

Imagery is utilized throughout both works, but in an almost juxtapositional way. “Barbie Doll” and “The Unknown...

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