Study Guide

Barbie Doll Appearances

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Appearance is pretty much the only thing Barbie has. And since she's a doll, we know she can't think or do anything either. Of course, the girlchild in "Barbie Doll" offers far more than an appearance, yet her appearance is the only thing everyone cares about. Society, this poem tells us, often prefers dolls over people. Go figure.

Questions About Appearances

  1. How are appearances depicted in a physical sense and behavioral sense in the poem? What should the girlchild look and act like?
  2. Would it have made any difference if the girlchild's classmates didn't tease her for the way she looks? Would she have felt and acted differently in the end?
  3. What's the symbolic importance of a Barbie doll? What's Barbie supposed to represent in the poem?
  4. Is it ever really possible to see beyond appearances? Why or why not? Do you think there are ways to encourage folks (and kids) to look beyond the surface? If so, how?

Chew on This

Appearances may be skin deep, but in Piercy's poem they have a way of killing what's inside too. Bummer.

If true beauty comes from within, then "everyone" in Piercy's poem looks pretty silly valuing a lifeless doll over a talented person like the girlchild. Wise up, y'all.

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