I’m a Barbie Girl

Posted: March 22, 2010 by thelitteam in JC 1, P5, Unseen Texts

This time, you get to make your comments first before I make mine.

The task is simple:

Pick a focus (if you weren’t already assigned one in class), either

"You have a big nose and fat legs." From 'Barbie Doll' by Marge Piercy


– Persona / Voice & Tone

– Atmosphere

– Diction – Adjectives

– Diction – Verbs

– Imagery

And consider how the poet uses any ONE in the presentation of the female identity in Marge Piercy’s Barbie Doll to create emphasis for her perspective.

That’s it. Easy peasy. One paragraph as a comment, and at the end of the week we shall see if I feel sufficiently inspired to write something for you.

As it is, applause is in short supply where my performances are concerned, so this time, online, we’ll get to go by viewer-ship — too few viewers = much less motivation. My Math is pretty bad, but this much I can add up, hmm?

  1. tammyebb says:

    It’s Wednesday. Three classes of four have had this tutorial; the last class has been given the heads-up on this assignment. The deadline is the end of the week. I’m counting days to see how long it takes for the classes to put something up here.

    It’ll help give me a sense of how often I should post things, since the students now get the chance to set the standard for a response. 🙂 If 1) it takes forever and 2) the responses are a) few and b) of a low quality / superficial without linking to the effectiveness of message conveyance, then my life can become very easy. 🙂

    “To be engaged, engage.”
    Or not. It’s your choice at every turn.
    And mine. 🙂

  2. Pearlyn, Ismail, Karan, Davina says:

    We have selected to focus on the structure of the poem Barbie Doll. Firstly this poem takes on an organic form, consisting of four stanzas. It lacks a rigid structure with no rhythm or rhyme scheme. This can be seen throughout the whole poem, which therefore gives us this impression of disharmony. It creates a matter of fact tone and portrays the struggles the girl faces.
    The whole structure flows in the form of a time line. In the first stanza the girl child was born, representing life, but in the last stanza she was “in the casket displayed on satin she lay” this represents death. It depicts the rejuvenation of life to death in the short 4 stanza poem.
    The repetition of positivity and negativity shows a pattern. In stanza two, the girl was first treated with respect but later emerged as a negative self. She was initially “healthy, tested intelligence, possessed strong arms and back” but she chose to respond to the struggle by apologizing. This emphasizes a positive and negative pattern. Thus causing her to be was reduced to parts by everyone else.


    • tammyebb says:

      Bravo, Group! 🙂
      There are somethings that might need a bit of tweaking in this first effort though.

      1) ‘rejuvenation of life to death’? “Rejuvenation” means like a return to a state of being alive or liveliness, I thought; which means there is some incoherency in this line of thought — it sounds impressive cos of the long word, and also because of the paradox of becoming more lively though becoming dead, but I think that it’s not really saying what you mean to say. Use of paradox is a writing stylistic employed by some writers, but if you’re in the process of dissecting someone else’s writing, the objective is to create clarity, not confusion, so I would advise against using paradox in your writing unless you’re essaying a great work of original literature (which some of you might attempt).

      2) “This emphasizes a positive and negative pattern. Thus causing her to be was reduced to parts by everyone else.”
      There is something here, but you need to express it more fully to draw out your analysis. For example, you might say “The pattern of a positive or neutral value message being followed by a negative message in each stanza could be perceived as an echo of the existence of the individual as a result of her struggle to manage the expectations of society: though she embodied or possessed certain positive qualities (such as the list of qualities and capabilities appearing in the first three lines of stanza 2) or neutral qualities (such as having been born a normal child as implied by the word “usual” in stanza 1), these potentials were perceived or fulfilled in a negative fashion. This patterning of content repeated throughout the poem has two key effects, one of reinforcing the negative impact of societal expectations on the individual, and the second of guiding the reader to reconsider the concluding two lines of the last stanza as they occupy the space where the negative message pattern emerges, thereby heightening the degree of irony in those lines and making it clear that the ‘happy ending’ mentioned is not meant to be taken at face value.

      THEN you can lead your analysis of structure to reflect the message / theme of the poem, ie. that the poem is meant to function as a form of social critique despite the dispassionate tone generated by the lack of fixed rhythm and rhyme, and that the degree of criticism has a greater impact because it seems to come from an outsider as an unbiased statement of truth.

      Can you see where you need to
      a) add details,
      b) build your reasoning up,
      c) follow through on the uncovering of the effects of the pattern
      so that you can
      d) arrive at a compounded and insightful assessment of the poem from dissecting its structure?

      Nod if you understand.

  3. Pearlyn, Ismail, Karan, Davina says:

    NOD (:

  4. Nicole, Esther, Georgia says:

    We have selected to focus on the diction (adjectives) of the poem. In this poem, descriptive diction is used to bring across the persona’s point. Words like “healthy”, “intelligent”, “strong arms and back”, etc. all these words are used to portray to the reader that the girl in the poem is actually a normal and healthy child, however, negative diction like “fat nose” and “thick legs” shows how negatively she perceives herself to be as she has this society mold that she wants to fit into. “so she cut off her nose and her legs and offered them up” the words “cut off” signifies more than the literal mean, figuratively, she could be cutting off a part of herself; losing her individuality as she “cut(s) off” parts of herself to pander to society. “Offered” creates a sense on how individuality is consumed by the molds of society. “Consummation at last”, the diction used here is like trying to convey that she has finally achieved the perfection that she has set out to reach and the words “at last” shows that it has been a very long journey in getting there. Diction is also used to portray sarcasm/ cynicism, as “to every woman a happy ending” sounds like the persona is slightly mocking those who are so bound by society’s rules that they would do anything to achieve perfection, the irony in that is the persona is mocking is that in trying to do so, they lose so much of themselves, making them seem almost generic, which may not make for a “happy ending”.


    • tammyebb says:

      Hmm… You’ll need to sustain your focus when you write. You start out talking about adjectives, but you meander off into verbs once you get into the discussion about “cut off”, so technically, you don’t prove your claim. You go from listing adjectives to describing the function without arriving at the effect on the reader, branch into describing what you think the use of particularly verbs means in the poem (while not exactly yet arriving at a coherent effect), before you go into ‘diction’ in general (and a noun – “Consummation” – in specific) and ending, somewhat ironically, on a point that could have been given a sharper impression had you stayed focused on developing your ideas about patterns emerging from the use of adjectives. ~wry expression~

      The problem begins with your Opinion statement, because the objective is vague. Remember what was said during one of the lectures: you need to know where you are going and what you want to achieve before you can start your journey to get yourself there. If you have no idea where you want to go, specifically, you could end up anywhere between here (ie. stasis, no movement, no real development of point) and the back-of-beyond-where-the-sun-shineth-not (ie. irrelevant and full of **** [substitute any word you like here; so long as you understand that ‘sense’ doesn’t fit the bill, it’s all right with me.).

      A statement like “bring across the persona’s point” is unhelpful to you because it’s like a cop-out: there’s an end objective but you’re not telling me what it is either because you want to create a sense of mystery (in an exam paper, you have no time for such things) or because you don’t know (which is the default assumption made by this particular marker cos I’m nasty and mean). If you had written instead something along the lines of “The pattern and progression of descriptive diction in this poem creates a heightening awareness of the satirical nature of the persona’s observations as well as a sardonic attitude towards society.” This statement is more effective as it indicates a precise observation of what is going on with the adjectives in the poem while also telling the reader of the paragraph where you’re leading up to.

      The “happy” ending could have been better explained through highlighting the obvious contrast between what is presented as ‘happy’ and the inability of the reader to reconcile the adjective with the needless and meaningless demise of the central female character. The adjective then stirs up contrary emotions of sadness, loss and pity in the reader, resulting a questioning of the values of the society as reflected in the poem, which in turn gives rise to a desire for change that no more needless and wasteful deaths might occur.

  5. Sylvia says:

    My group has decided to focus on Persona of the poem, Barbie Doll. In this poem, the narrator is omniscient hence making it a detached persona as it only gives detailed observations of the woman being written about. The voice and tone are in a matter of fact manner. For example, ” The grandchild was born as usual”, at the starting of the stanza and continuing, “So she cut off her nose and her legs and offered them up.” The tone is set in a very matter of fact manner which makes the the persona rather emotionless as it makes people feel as if cutting of noses and legs are normal. The persona speaks in this way as if reflecting the emotions in the poem. In this poem, she was advised to change the way they wanted her to change and yet no one cared about how she felt, which makes it emotionless just like the persona. The persona is also descriptive like the beauty described in the poem, it is superficial and yet nothing from the inside, for example, “She was advised to play coy,”Nobody notices what she has on the inside but notices her on the outside. Like the persona, an outsider, taking the views of her outer appearance only. Hence, the persona reflects the feelings shown in the poem.


    • tammyebb says:

      NB: Voice and Tone are different though they are of course, related and affect one another. Your paragraph is rather repetitive and descriptive. I don’t understand what you mean ‘as if reflecting the emotions in the poem’ because you just said the persona is ‘rather emotionless’.

      There is some potential in what you say about the normalizing of cutting off noses and legs, though this needs to be tweaked and refined quite a bit. For example, the matter-of-fact tone seems to normalise the horror of what the girlchild resorts to, but this has the opposite effect of emphasizing the degree of anguish felt by the girlchild persona that for her, there was no other option possible, hence the treatment of the rather extreme reactions as something expected or matter-of-fact. This also has the effect of creating the impression of a society that is accustomed to such gory and extreme acts by its members, and a further emphasis is given by a similarly detached report of ‘everyone’s response to her death, implying that no one thought to dispute or question the cause of her death or to lament the senselessness of the suicide. The reader is forced to critique the society’s focus on superficial appearance at such expense, and to place himself in opposition to what is held as valuable to such a society.

      You could also write about how the narrator, in speaking with a matter-of-fact voice creates the tone of detachment and emotionlessness that implies a lack of direct or intimate relationship between the speaker and the persona of the girl. The opening line ‘The girlchild was born as usual’ carries the tone of detached observation, particularly with the phrase ‘as usual’, as if the speaker is interested only in a clinical capacity, creating the effect of the girl persona being akin to a lab rat or particle phenomena under observation, and that she is being viewed by one who may not necessarily take any particular or direct interest in her development. This treatment by the poet creates an increasing sense of unease in the reader, as the flat, emotionless tone is sustained throughout the poem despite the eventual severity of outcomes in the experience of the girl. This unease is compounded by a sense of helplessness as the reader is confined by the speakers inactivity and lack of involvement to the role of a by-stander who can do nothing to avert the imminent disaster. This results in the reader experiencing a very profound degree of loss at the end of the poem when the girlchild has died for want of positive affirmation.

  6. Seelong (Lorene) , Valerie, Rebekah & Lindsay says:

    Observing the use of imagery in ‘Barbie Doll’ by Marge Piercy.

    Imagery has been used by the poet to show how women are complelled to the stereotype of society and their expectations.

    In the first stenza, the girl presented with gifts, imagerys like ‘ doll that did pee-pee’ , ‘miniature GE stove and irons’ and ‘wee lipsticks’ convey to us how expectations are laid out to the girl even when she’s just a child. The doll, signifies the expectation of her to be a mother, and the fact that it ‘pee-pee’ is to show care and to posses a motherly role. While the stove and iron shows how she is expected to do the househole chores.

    At stenza two, i can infer through the poet’s use the imagery of ‘ a fat nose on thick legs ‘ to tell readers how the girl is reduced to parts. As the nose and leg is a body feature far apart and yet in irony, the fat nose is on the thick legs. The girl is reduced to parts by society, as ‘everyone’ represents society. The point that is she is reduced to parts is reinforced where ‘ she cut off her nose and her legs’ despite her inner qualities ‘ healthy, tested intelligent and possessed strong arms and back….etc’. These imagerys of ‘ big nose and fat legs ‘ and the point that the girl cut them off, shows how due to the society’s definition of ‘ big nose and fat legs’ as being unacceptable , the girl succumb to all these judgements and cut them off.

    The poet also used imagery how reveal the society’s definition of beauty. The ‘wee lipstick’ and the identification of the particular colour of ‘ cheery candy’ shows how this imagery is the society’s standard and definition known as pretty and how the girl is expected to put on make ups and to stay pretty. As this was given to the girl when she was just a child. At the end of the poem where the girl had ‘ turned-up putty nise’ and ‘dressed in a pink and white nightie’ the girl was commented as being pretty. These are what society defines as beauty. However, this was not what she possesed naturally. Yet, she was compliment, in contrary to what she possesed naturally. The fact that she’s already in the ‘ casket displayed’ which suggest that she is dead, the poet shows us the sinister fact that even at death she’s judged by her beauty. How the image of a ‘girlchild’ which the poem begins with till ‘ casket displayed ‘ suggest that the girl is judged by her beauty and how expectations are forced upon her throughout her whole life.

    Therefore through imagery, the poet brings across several messages, of how the females are judged by society’s expectations and definition of beauty.

    i’m not sure if i’m doing this correctly. I often fear if my explainations and evidences are not linked to my point as i often tend to drift into other areas of studys used by the poet. Often i drifted to use of words. Also, i have been told not to make assumptions. I hope i did not, though i suspect that i did.

    Thankyou for making this blog, it’s so nice just to read something interesting.

    • tammyebb says:

      Not a bad attempt: You’re seeing that the imagery works in several possible areas, which is great. 🙂
      What you could do to improve this and also to expand your scope. What you have to say about imagery is enough to span about half an essay at least, so if you could tie in the imagery and explain how it works in tandem to emphasise the different messages, it would be more efficient because then you would be covering your stylistic analysis in more detail. For instance, in terms of the use of imagery to reinforce the stereotypes being forced upon the individual, which other stylistic serves to draw out her lack of choice in the matter — ie. if you tie it in with the matter-of-fact and detached voice of the narrator, it makes these images sound like so much part of the norm that they aren’t even questioned. This creates the effect of exemplifying how societal expectations are quite an insidious force because it’s so much in the environment that everyone, including the oppressed individual, takes it as a given without thinking to oppose its authority even at the expense of the individual’s happiness or survival. Hence, by the time the image of what is expected of a woman represented by the various toys in stanza one progresses and transforms into the image of the girl packed into her casket at the end, the trite words of ‘everyone’ makes it clear that even the tragedy and loss aren’t enough to make them realise that there is something intensely wrong with the norm and the expectations — and the readers, as detached observers, are able to see the irony in the situation and can therefore take the warning against giving in to the norm and expectations of this nature better than the ‘everyone’ encompassed within the poem.

      You can look at:
      1) Development of the picture / images presented in the text — what is that trying to communicate?
      2) Usually there are other stylistics at play (Diction, Structure, Rhyme, Repetition, etc.) which help draw out the impact of the imagery even more. If you can identify the dynamic and elaborate on how you understand it to be working on the reader, that takes your analysis to another level.
      3) Are there any patterns / dichotomies at work which again serve to create emphasis either by repetition or by contrast — that and WHAT is being emphasised exactly, and why?

  7. Tanya, Jasmine, Bridget (1A01) says:

    We have decided to focus on diction, specifically verbs and adverbs. The poet uses diction to show society’s actions as they are trying to make the girl conform to their expectations. The poet categorized his verbs into active and passive words to show what society tells the girl to do and then how she responses to it. This expresses the society’s expectations as to how a perfect girl should look and act, presenting the stereotypes of the female identity. The active verbs like ‘advised’, ‘exhorted’ etc is used by society, and instructs the girl how she should portray herself to be accepted. The passive verbs however, are used in response by the female identity, showing how she reacts to the demands of society. For example, she ‘cut’ off her nose and ‘offered’ it up, showing the need for drastic measures to be taken to blend into society The use of active and passive verbs together portrays the idea of how she has to sacrifice her individuality in a bid to become what society dictates. It affects the reader as we feel pity that she has given in to society’s criticism and expectations.

    • tammyebb says:

      Remember to keep your focus: You say that you are going to look at verbs and adverbs — but all that you are quoting are verbs. Adverbs are about how something is being done, and that’s always useful to look at because it helps to communicate the attitude and mood, etc., which will allow you to ascend to another level of analysis of what is going on in the text.
      A deeper analysis could also have been arrived at given what you’ve written: The contrast in the nature of the verbs allows the reader to perceive that the individual and society exist as opposites, which suggests that what they want or need might also be opposites. Society requires conformity as is evidenced by the verbs which suggest that it imposes its will on the individual by directing and dictating the actions of the individual. It also suggests that the individual through conforming, is on a path to the destruction of the self because, as evidenced by the adjectives used to describe the positive qualities of the girlchild in stanza 2, what she needs to accept and nurture are the traits which make her strong even if they separate her from the accepted norm. The dichotomy of verbs also suggests that there is no meeting point, no middle ground for the individual and society to coexist in a healthy and mutually beneficial way, that the only way to survive is through being consumed by society’s expectations to the point of misplacing values in entirety, as evidenced by the focus on the superficial in the last stanza by the mourners, or to perish. This paints a very bleak picture of the society, and causes the readers to question the authority of society and what it imposes, and gives them an opportunity to question their own actions and their value: if they are simply passively accepting and responsive to what society desires at the expense of their own individual strengths and abilities.
      So what I’ve done is I’ve used the base of what you have written and I’ve developed it to suggest how it propels the reader to self-examination and reflection through a clearer understanding of the dynamic between society / social expectations and the individual. This is what I mean by leading up to an insightful analysis, and you can get to this point by training yourself to look at the pattern and ask ‘why is it there’ and ‘what is it trying to tell me’ and ‘how is it guiding my thinking’ until you arrive at the answer.
      It can be done. Just practise and you’ll definitely get there. 🙂 The fact that you’re making the effort to write is a good start — without practice, you cannot develop your skills. Keep practising and you’ll get better. 🙂

  8. Tan Cheng Liang, Ng Wee Tze, Louisa Sng says:

    We shall be focusing on the imagery of the poem. In the first stanza, we are provided with a glimpse of what the young girl’s start in life is.
    “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.” From this, we are presented with the image of the girl’s childhood. As far as it goes, it would seem that the child goes through the same process that all girls undergo. The opening of the poem is light, and cheerful, which sets the mood of the entire poem. The images we are presented with are that of a young girl at play, with her dolls and toys; what every young girl’s ideal childhood should be. However, in the final two lines of the stanza, the poet brings the issue at hand to a head, “Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:/You have a great big nose and fat legs.” The words used here conjure up subtle images. The phrase, “the magic of puberty” brings the idea of growing to teen-hood as a magical time to be enjoyed by all. However, as Piercy shows, this is not the case. Following up, the stanza closes with “You have a great big nose and fat legs.” The image we are confronted with now gives us a clear view of the teenager that this classmate in question sees. The “great big nose and fat legs” are the focus of the classmate’s comment, and now the imagery reduces the girl to parts, and parts that do not flatter. This final image of the first stanza makes us empathize with the girl, as having passed through puberty ourselves, we too can understand the feeling as the body changes. The second stanza provides us with a picture of the girl as she has grown up to be, and on most counts, she passes muster,
    “She was healthy, tested intelligent,/possessed strong arms and back,/abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.” The girl has grown up to be a strong, healthy woman, and this image allows us to feel that maybe the “great big nose and fat legs” did not affect her growth. The picture Piercy paints of the girl is quite similar to the classic idea of beauty held, and on top of that, she is intelligent, is possessed of an abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity. Yet, she is unable to rid herself of her feelings of inadequacy, as we can see, “She went to and fro apologizing./Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.” The girl’s feelings of insecurity and inferiority are shown here, but the absurdity of it is compounded by the previous three lines, where all of her positive qualities are described. In this way, Piercy paints an accurate picture of society’s tendency to focus on negative physical qualities, despite the positive appearance in other areas. The ambiguity of the final line of the second stanza is highlighted, as we the readers do not know if it is truly everyone who sees the great big nose and fat legs, or if it is the girl herself who sees it as such. By doing this, Piercy is able to depict the fears and insecurities of every person who feels inadequate because of some minor flaw. The third stanza describes the many ways that the girl is expected to behave, “She was advised to play coy,/exhorted to come on hearty,/exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.” These descriptions are reflective of the advice that parents and friends give to teenage girls on how to behave in different social situations. The image painted is that of an overly expectant and pressuring society, expecting set behaviors for different situations. The expectations that are shown here are accurate reflections, in themselves. These in turn cause her to finally snap, “Her good nature wore out/like a fan belt./So she cut off her nose and her legs/and offered them up.” The comparison of “her good nature” to a “fan belt” conjures up the image of society viewing her as a machine, or a robot, programmed to perform certain behaviors. Unfortunately, as all machines eventually will, she “wore out”. This image brings to mind the viewing of women in society today, having to constantly meet demands and expectations, with no concern for their emotional or mental welfare, but they are treated as machines, to perform the tasks dictated to them by society. The shock value of the final two lines of the third stanza serve to force us to consider the extent to which the person is driven to. The phrase “offered them up” brings the idea of sacrifices to mind, and the image of a girl removing her appendages disturbs, and reinforces the idea of her as a Barbie Doll, created by the machine of society. This idea that her parts that do not meet with satisfaction may be removed brings the idea of the interchangeable parts of a Barbie Doll to mind. Only then, she feels, will she able to truly meet the expectations; by replacing the parts of her that do not pass muster. The image of society, throwing away those who do not pass muster in some way, minute or otherwise, is brought to mind. The fourth and final stanza reinforces the idea of her as a human doll, as seen, “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.” The satin lining, undertaker’s cosmetics, turned-up putty nose and pink and white nightie bring up the final image of the girl having achieved the ideal of beauty. Through death, she has become a beautiful doll, lying in a box, for all to be admired. This final image once again draws the idea of the Barbie Doll to mind, but within its packaging. The Barbie Doll sits in its box, looking pretty, waiting for it’s life as a toy to begin. However, for the girl, she has ended her life to become this Barbie Doll, lying in her box, for all to see. The juxtaposition of opposites serves to highlight the irony of the situation; Despite all her good qualities, she chose to conform to society’s idea of beauty, and ends her life looking like one of the dolls she played with in her childhood. The final image of the funeral that Piercy delivers to us is a shocking one, as seen in, “Doesn’t she look pretty? everyone said./Consummation at last./To every woman a happy ending.” Only when she had achieved the “ideal” of beauty, through her own death, do people notice her beauty, instead of focusing on her nose and legs. “Consummation at last.” According to society, she has finally achieved perfection, the ideal of beauty that all women should aspire to. This idea is reinforced by the closing line, “To every woman a happy ending.” The implication is that if a woman achieves the ideal of beauty, she will have a happy ending, no matter what she sacrifices to achieve it. In this case, she sacrificed her life, the possibilities of success left unfulfilled, because she couldn’t accept that it would be alright to be less than perfect. Piercy’s intention is made clear, in that she is condemning society and people for forcing women to attempt to reach this height of beauty, and to achieve it, whatever the cost. The poem as a whole consists of the juxtaposition of opposites; in the light style and handling of the dark theme. This highlights both the poet’s views of society, society’s views of beauty, and the relentless battle and pressures that women must face to achieve the ideal of beauty, to become a Barbie Doll.


    • tammyebb says:

      Sigh. A lot of this is descriptive. Part of the story-telling nature of what has been written has to do with the fact that your focus does not remain consistent — you describe the picture but not how it’s put together or how it’s working. You’re going line-by-line or stanza-by-stanza and describing what you see there. By the end of the work, it is clear that even you realise that you’ve not kept your focus on the development of the imagery and the technique for bringing that across or how it’s been compounded over the course of the poem.
      In addition, what you define as ‘an image’ waffles a bit, like when you address the image of the funeral and then lump-quote the last three lines. And then you re-quote and explain line by line. You don’t have time to do this during an exam or even for an in-class assignment. You should keep the focus sharp: If it’s about imagery, stick to that, and to the particular kind of imagery you are referring to and how that is developed. Address the method of development instead — highlight the pattern, and don’t just tumble through the entire poem beginning to end and then address the effect of that.
      Start with an idea, not with a quote. You do this a couple of times. This gives the impression of narration rather than analysis. Evidence quotes should only emerge to supplement and illustrate your claims, not as some kind of launch pad. Quotes should also be short and specific. If you’re quoting line after line you need to stop and think about what exactly it is you want to draw out from those lines and pare it down. That’s why the stylistic focus is so crucial — that is the way in which you distinguish what to quote and what not because if it doesn’t meet your focus, then don’t quote it. For example, when you state “The ambiguity of the final line of the second stanza is highlighted, as we the readers do not know if it is truly everyone who sees the great big nose and fat legs, or if it is the girl herself who sees it as such,” the ambiguity doesn’t lie in the entire line; it lies in the word ‘everybody’. Be specific. You need to keep in mind time constraints — the ideas need to be expressed succinctly. What you have written doesn’t quite qualify for a ‘paragraph’, yet as an essay, it’s lacking in scope and direction.
      You need to make sure that your arguments are distinct and driven by a clear stylistic analysis. When what you write appears as a large block with no clear indication of what exactly you’re in the process of analyzing that remains consistent throughout, it is difficult to see any kind of idea development — and whatever is there comes across as being haphazard. If you have many ideas that you want to address, then make sure you are clear about which feature you want to discuss them in tandem with and organize your argument according to a priority of stylistic analysis.

  9. Linda says:

    My group would like to focus on the last two sentences of the fourth stanza where the persona seemed to have a happy ending as what she saw as a problem(nose and thighs) was rectified. Thus, the writer writes the last two sentences in hoping that all other women would achieve the perfection that they want. This is because although the persona had problems in her life that resulted in her ending it, she turn out to be what she wanted in the end and thus, created a feeling that she achieved inner peace within herself after all the problems that she faced in her life.

    Personal Comment:
    Hi Mdm Thiang! I’m not very sure if we had done it correctly because it seems a bit short. So sorry for the late comment!

    • tammyebb says:

      1) You have a specific evidence focus, BUT
      A) you need to have a specific STYLISTIC focus (ie. what stylistic is in operation that you are going to dissect in terms of how it allows you to arrive at your conjecture)
      B) you point to the example but you do not actually dissect it in detail. Long quotes are pointless; quote words or short phrases and tell me what is working there!

      2) Your interpretation of having arrived at ‘rectified problem’ and a ‘happy ending’ is problematic because the persona is DEAD. She has to DIE to be happy or to be perfect — is there or isn’t there something vastly wrong with this picture / idea?? Would you really want to die for that sense of ‘inner peace’? For that matter, what’s the point of having ‘inner peace’ if you can’t be alive to enjoy it?? 😦
      The speaker may state the last two lines in the fashion that implies what you say, but you need to assess how serious she is being, and if this is the message she wants to convey, and if she doesn’t mean her words at face value, what you think the effect of that is meant to be and how effectively that helps communicate the message.

  10. Ming Kwang, Anthony, Dong Li, Jeremy (1A03) says:

    Hi sorry for late post. My group will be touching on the structure and form of this poem.

    To begin with, this poem is written in the form of free verse – irregular lines, irregular metre, abandon regular pattern and do not sustain a rhymes pattern throughout the poem. As free verse is common in the 20th century, the reason that Marge Piercy adopted this kind of form to express the women’s issues could be because she wanted to direct this norm particularly to the woman living in the 20th century. Moreover, the fact that Barbie dolls are invented in the 20th century justify my point. Hence, Marge Piercy could be saying that as time passes especially with the development of modern world, human are becoming more and more indulge on the superficial. The persona presents 20th century and human on parallel – Human have a better standard of living by seeking for modernisation (20th century), similarly, human are seeking for standardisation by conforming to the social norm. Hence, the persona could be directing this against the society that the seeking for standardisation is not necessary a boon, which is true in the context of this poem for the ‘girlchild’.

    The persona also uses repetition in the structure of the poem to emphasis on how the society objectify and dehumanise every individual. In stanza 1, the persona mentioned, “big nose and fat legs”. In stanza 2, the persona mentioned, “fat nose and thick legs”, in stanza 3, “nose and her legs” and finally in stanza 4, “putty nose”. As nose and legs are one of the pre-requsites of what the society defines as beauty, the repetition of this 2 nouns will constantly remind the readers of the ‘girlchild’ desires to have a nice nose and slender legs. Hence, the desire of this ‘girlchild’ to meet social’s pre-requisites of beauty highlights the ignorance of the society. The persona wants to critic on the ignorant society who objectify an individual and use that objectified ‘object’ as a yardstick to define one’s beauty. As a result, it forces each individual, from young, to objectify themselves which is cruel.

    Thanks for reading.

    • tammyebb says:

      This post reads somewhat like a GP essay. Especially that bit about modernisation. Sheesh. What in the text made you go all the way there? Seriously!

      The statement about why Piercy would use free verse simply because she’s living in the 20th Century and how Barbie dolls are a 20th C product, while perhaps having some kind of timeline co-relation, doesn’t really communicate a particularly insightful point about the use of form. If you had at least said that the use of free form as a symbolic expression of the desire to be free from rules and constraints contrasts with the adherence to a single ideal image of what a woman should look like as represented in the title highlights the tension between individualism / individual identity and what society imposes, suggesting that all individual expression is an ironic subset of adherence to norm, that might have at least kept it relevant and said something interesting about the more subtle message of the poem as communicated through the form, rather than simply observing that Piercy is employing a form popular for her time.

      For your second paragraph, you need to be clear on the distinction between objectification (comparison with an object that’s usually constructed; the barbie doll would be the object in this case. Or the GE stoves, cherry lipstick… these are objects) and reduction to parts (ie. instead of looking at the whole figure / person, I only look at a part/s of them, the nose and legs in this case). These are, as I hope you can see now, quite different techniques and allow readers to experience different effects. If the persona is referred to as a Mercedes Benz, you can derive the idea that the persona is being treated like a luxury good; in this case, the reference or the association with the Barbie doll as an object creates the effect of some kind of mass-produced item or image that is commonly and easily available, so thus creating a sense of irony that in reaching for this so-called ideal, the persona is actually selling herself short because she’s reaching for something that is or can be considered a common market good.

      However, if you are addressing the notion of reduction to parts, the focus of attention on her nose and legs allows for two things to happen simultaneously: the reduction of the identity or persona to such an extreme that the reader has no choice but to realise how much is being left out in the perception of the persona, as well as allowing for the poet to illustrate the development of the persona by modifying the image, like when the ‘fat nose’ becomes ‘cut off’ / absent and the becomes ‘putty’ / artificial, suggesting that the new image isn’t a real representation of the identity of the persona anyway, even if it has been what she has been striving for.

  11. tammyebb says:

    I would like to thank all of you who fulfilled the assignment by submitting a comment. For those who put in the effort, I hope that you have learnt something useful from this exchange and from reading the submissions from your peers.

    To say that the overall response has been disappointing is an understatement. You can count for yourselves: there have been 8 comments from the student body out of what was supposed to be a total of 24. If an opportunity to be an active learner presents itself and you do not take it up, then you know where the responsibility lies if you appear the fool at the end of the journey.

    For those who did not bother, I hope for your sake that you are doing some kind of practice somewhere. If not, I wish you the best of luck with next week’s assignment, the mid-years, the promo exams, every other test you will have up till your ‘A’ level exams, as well as the GCEs — if you lay no foundations for yourself to stand on, the journey will get harder. Literature is not a ‘soft’ subject because you have to be able to dissect texts and comment on them in an insightful way. If you have at least read what your peers have submitted and my replies to them, you should have an awareness of what the standard I am setting for you is.

    If you know you’re not up to the mark, then I hope again for your sake that you know what to do.

    I will reply to no further entries to this blog. The deadline is long past and I have other work to do which does not allow me to afford the time to wait around for people who do not care enough about their own progress. My feedback is a privilege which, if not appreciated, will be withdrawn.

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