Study Guide

Barbie Doll Appearances

By Marge Piercy

Appearances

Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs. (5-6)

Puberty has a way of magnifying everyone's appearance in a pretty awkward way. And yet, kids still mimic what they see in the adult world and can't seem to get around the whole Barbie thing, no matter how unreal she is.

She was advised to play coy,
exhorted to come on hearty,
exercise, diet, smile and wheedle. (12-14)

Appearances aren't just about the way you look. They're also about the way you act. In Piercy's poem, the girlchild is encouraged to act in the complete opposite way that's natural to her. It's all quite similar to the unrealistic expectations of looking like Barbie and behaving like a doll.

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. (19-22)

Appearances are so important that the poor girlchild can't even escape them in death. Everyone is determined to make her look like Barbie with a putty nose and sexy lingerie. Sigh. Folks haven't exactly learned their lesson by the end of the poem.

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