Study Guide

Barbie Doll Coming of Age

By Marge Piercy

Coming of Age

Face it, everyone: growing up is a tough experience. We're trying to figure out who we are, what we want to do, and having to live up to everyone's expectations isn't always the easiest either. For the girlchild in "Barbie Doll," coming of age isn't about learning about oneself, but rather learning (and failing) to please everyone else, no matter how silly folks may be.

Questions About Coming of Age

  1. What do you think the speaker means in line 1 when she says the girlchild was "born as usual"?
  2. How do you think girls and boys experience growing up in different ways? Is there anything similar about the ways they come of age? 
  3. Do you think the adult world helps or hinders the process of coming of age in Piercy's poem? Is there anything adults can do to improve their influence over kids? 
  4. What's the significance of lines 24-25 that include the idea of "consummation at last"? Do you think the girlchild ever got the chance to experience a happy "consummation"?

Chew on This

Coming of age in Piercy's poem isn't so much about learning who you are, as it is learning who you're "supposed" to be in the eyes of society (skinny, pretty, putty-nosed—you get the picture).

The adults in "Barbie Doll" appear as if they never quite made it past puberty—they don't sound a whole heckuva lot different from the girlchild's classmates.

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