In analyzing the poems Barbie Doll by Marge Piercy, Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson and the play A Dolls House by Henrik Ibsen, one notes a few recurring themes, struggles, and issues across all three works that present society at its most real as it were. The societies presented in all the three creative works are all patriarchal societies. In the poem Richard Cory the named character of the poem has it all- good looks, money, respect in society- everybody is envious of him in society. Despite all this Richard Cory commits suicide as shown in the last two lines of Robinsons poem And Richard Cory, one calm summer night, /Went home and put a bullet through his head. In the poem Barbie Doll and the play A Dolls House the struggles presented is women trying to find their place in society which ironically means being shown their place. The unnamed girl has criticized all her life for her appearance such as great big nose and fat legs. As a young girl, she is judged by her fellow schoolmates- including fellow girls and later on in her adolescent life she is constantly being told how to behave. Prejudice is a constant theme, and it cuts across all divides- even women look down on fellow women because that is the way society has conditioned people. In the two creative works, the main topic of the display is the fact that society expects women to be subservient to men.
In Barbie the narrative poem describes the life of an unnamed girl through 25 lines of poetry. The poem starts with the line The girlchild was born as usual to show how unremarkable the life of this so-called girlchild was. The use of the term girlchild is in a way derogatory. Marge Piercy uses the poem to show the typical expectations heaped on women by society. In Henrik Ibsens A Dolls House the main characters Nora and Torvald Helmer have been married for eight years, with children, they live like strangers. In the society that Nora and Torvald live, the woman is expected to be the domestic caretaker of the house in a marriage. Torvald works in a bank, recently promoted but frugal. He does not understand the big dreams his wife has. Nora wants a meaningful life, one which she gets to decide her future and so she decides to leave her husband. "I have to try to educate myself," she says, "You cannot help me with that. I have got to do it alone. Moreover, that's why I am leaving you now" (Ibsen, 92).
There is an economic struggle going on in the societies presented in the three societies. In Ibsens play, there are some working class individuals such as Mrs. Linde who proclaims I have to work to go on living. All my born days, as long as I can remember, I have worked, and it has been my best and my only joy (Hudgins & Christopher p.856). In the case of Mrs. Linde work is not just as means to be self-sufficient and get some money, it is an outlet for her frustrations. When Mrs. Linde is at work, she feels like she is making a difference in not only her life but also others lives. The admission here by Mrs. Linde is not her is alone- she represents the economic struggles that virtually all the women in the play go through. Nora is another character who represents economic struggle and work. She forges her fathers signature to secure a loan and then works hard to get the money to repay the loan. Krogstad is the bank employee who approved Noras loan. Krogstad admits he is not doing well financially and Torvald wants to fire him. The fact that Krogstad is not referred to as Mr. Krogstad is a revelation of the economic classism inherent in Ibsens community. Torvald Helmer is Krogstads boss at the bank, and as a boss he has decided to lay him off because of his supposed immorality.
Torvald is revealed to be self-righteous by his regard for Krogstads moral sense. In Robinsons poem, Richard Cory commits suicide despite him not having any economic problem. One is left wondering if money was not the problem what was? Perhaps he was lonely, and his sense of self-worth was at the bottom. In Barbie doll the girl also commits suicide, cutting off her great big nose and fat legs. She has buried in a pink casket hence the Barbie Doll title and during her funeral onlookers remark that she was pretty despite all the criticisms she received for her looks all her life. Hence Piercys great close to the poem, to every woman a happy ending which is a sarcastic inference regarding the whole expectation of society for women to look like a Barbie doll.
In summary, the theme of conflict is constant where personal struggles are pitted against societal expectations. In Robinsons Richard Cory, the named protagonist has his struggles which despite his high-status quo in society, drives him to take his own life. One cannot help but wonder that if he had somebody to talk to- a girlfriend, a wife a brother or just any close friend he would not have killed himself. The gentleman Richard Cory is obviously a lonely man who is secretly depressed (Piercy& Marge, 36). In A Dolls House, personal conflict is represented by all characters. For Torvald, it is his self-righteousness which makes him judge others and give himself an undeservedly high opinion. For Nils Krogstad he desires to fit in, and he sees his ticket to society is through work. For the widow Mrs. Hilde her struggles are with maintaining her status in society and pursuing her love interest in Nils Krogstad. Nora wants to be productive, needed and wanted and her husband does not give her that attention and credit for all the sacrifice she has made for her husband and children. In Barbie Doll, the girl struggles with being herself versus society pressuring her how to behave. In the poems Barbie Doll and Richard Cory and Ibsens A Doll House society is described as an artificial animal which consumes the individual until he or she no longer recognize themselves.
Hudgins, Christopher. "Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House." (2009).
Piercy, Marge. Barbie Doll. Red Mountain Tribe, Incorporated, 1971.
Wixson, Chris. "ENG 1002G-051: Composition and Literature." (2003).
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