February 21, 2013
“Barbie Doll” and “Hanging Fire”: Women’s Struggle With Society’s Standards
“Barbie Doll” by Marge Piercy and “Hanging Fire” by Audre Lorde are both dark, ominous poems that deal with young women striving for acceptance and toying with the thought of ending their own lives. Though both poems conclusions are different, the similarities of the girls’ personal and social struggles leading to their desire to end their lives’ is captivating. In the poem “Barbie Doll” by Marge Piercy, we read about a young girl who has self-image problems. Due to the expectations of society, she is not happy with her physical appearance. She had many good qualities but is unable to see these for herself. Instead she only sees “a great big nose and fat legs.” (Line 6) In order to conform to society’s idea of beauty, the young girl was “advised to play coy/ exhorted to come on hearty/ exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.” (12-14) The pressures became too much for her to handle. She could no longer live this way so she “cut off her nose and her legs/ and offered them up.” (17-18) The author states that finally the girl has achieved acceptance, but not on the qualities of her character or her being, rather, through the unwilling compromise to culture. In a literary analysis of this poem, Zach Woodson states that “Piercy shows through her poem ‘Barbie Doll’ the dangers of false standards and the consequences of their application.”
The poem “Hanging Fire”, by Audre Lorde is about the hardships of a teenager who is possibly growing up during the tense civil rights movement era, and is afraid for her life. She is Wright 2
scared about growing up and has much insecurity. There are many things she wants to do such as, learn to dance and be on the math team. The young girl has self-confidence problems due to her appearance. For example she states, “my skin has betrayed me,” (Line 2) meaning there are many things she feels she cannot...