The positive effects of societyspressure

Young versus old. Death versus eternal life. The positive effects of societyspressure versus the negative.

Marge Piercys “Barbie Doll” and DickSchneiders “Youths Progress” are a study in the themes mentionedabove. There are many obvious similarities in the chronological structure andirony of the two works. However, the reader will find that there are morethought-provoking contrasts than initially meet the eye. Not surprisingly, thepoems follow the natural course of chronological time: beginning to end, youngto old.

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Both poems unfold with birth, continue through the “growing up”years, but do not surpass adulthood. The separation of stanzas in both worksindicates a new stage of life, though Piercy leaves the reader to guess theactual age of the “girlchild” in “Barbie Doll.” The reader will notethat a major theme of both poems is the long-term effect of outside pressure onthe subjects from birth. Piercy employs the stylistic device of irony throughoutthe entirety of her poem. It required the “magic” of puberty for a child topoint out the negative aspects of a physical body. A healthy, intelligent andstrong woman is compelled by society to bustle “to and fro apologizing,”apologizing for failing to mirror the image of the Barbie-like woman the worldseems to want. Though she attempts to defy these expectations by cutting off her”great big nose” and “fat legs,” in her death the woman is displayed inher casket, cosmetics painted on and a beautiful turned-up putty nose.

Finally,she fits the mold cut for her by society. “Our way of life has hardly changedsince a wheel first whetted a knife.” While “Youths Progress”chronicles the growth of the subject with specific years and ages, “BarbieDoll” simply accounts for the passing of time in a story-tellers fashion ofmemories.

“Barbie Doll” ends with the tragedy of a woman who, because shedidnt live up to the unrealistic standard created for her, resorts tosuicide. “Youths Progress” concludes with the exhortation of publicapproval and the sense of eternal life in exchange for submitting to theunofficial rules of social acceptance, eager to fit the mold. To some, theimmortalized life of Schneider is preferable to the tragic death of Piercysgirlchild Young versus old. Death versus eternal life. The positive effects ofsocietys pressure versus the negative. The course a life will take isultimately decided by the individual, the sum of his choices and reactions tothe cards dealt to him by Life. The choice is yours.

BibliographyBowland, Eavan. “Its a Womans World,” 1982.


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