Marge Peircy

’s “Barbie Doll” And Sharon Olds’ “The Death Of Marilyn Monroe” Essay, Research Paper

Women vs. Society:

Society Wins

Marge Peircy’s “Barbie Doll” and Sharon Olds’ “The Death of Marilyn Monroe” are two poems that deal with society’s influence over women. However, the two women describe in the story are completely different on the outside, but the inside is much more similar. The female in “Barbie Doll” has no identity and no name, where as the female in “The Death of Marilyn Monore” is the icon Marilyn Monroe. Although these two women remarkably appear to be opposite, they have one thing in common – their own death- and society’s opinions, stereotypes, and expectations murdered these two women.

At the beginning of “Barbie Doll”, it reads “This girlchild was born as usual”. This line shows that their is nothing wrong with this girl. She is your average child that plays with “dolls that pee-pee” and ” miniature GE stoves and irons”. She does not realize that anything is wrong with her until “a classmate said: You have a great big nose and fat legs”. She was normal and happy, then society points out that she is different then the model in Seventeen magazine.

The girl is healthy, intelligent, and strong. However, society can not see past her physical imperfection and see her inner perfection. The preconception that outer beauty reflects the inner beauty, was society cursing her. Society tells her to “play coy” and “exercise, diet, smile and wheedle” . She hears and interprets it to mean that she is nothing but a “fat nose on thick legs”.

Since our girlchild’s mirror did not reflect a barbie doll, she killed herself. To be more accurate she “she cut off her nose and her legs\ and offered them up”. And society graciously welcomed her sacrifice, and says “Doesn’t she look pretty?”. Although it cost her life, society finally excepts her.

However, in “The Death of Marilyn Monroe”, our main character Marilyn Monroe is opposite of our unknown Barbie Doll. She is excepted by society, she has name, and is seen as perfection. She is the model that our girlchild is compared to. But the contrast of these two women is only on the outside. Their inner reflection is a mirror of each other. They are twins inside.

Marilyn wants society to see her not as a blonde hair, blue eyed sex symbol. She wants, as did the girlchild, to be looked at from the inside out. Since society refused to cooperate, they put the pills in her hand. Like the girlchild, Marilyn only achieved her goal after death. The ambulance men saw her as “just an ordinary / women / breathing.”

Marge Peircy and Sharon Olds both wrote about two women who struggled with the stereotypes and pressure that society thrusts upon them. Even though they are different and hold different positions in society, they still had the same expectations. “The Death of Marilyn Monroe” and “Barbie Doll” shows the outcome of physical expectations on women, and how society put the weapons in their hands.


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