Analysis Hanging Fire & Barbie Doll

Last Updated: 20 Apr 2022
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Thesis Statement & Introduction An analysis of the literary elements imagery, symbolism, and tone/mood in “Barbie Doll”, by Marge Piercy and, “Hanging Fire” by Audre Lorde reveals each character and their struggle with their identity in society. Summary of “Barbie Doll” 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 is a “a great big nose and fat legs”(Piercy,1936).

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. ”(Piercy, 1936) 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. ”(Piercy, 1936) 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. Summary of “Hanging Fire”

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 scared about growing up and has many insecurities. There are many things she wants to do such as, learn to dance & 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,” ( Lorde, 1978) meaning there are many things she feels she cannot do because her skin is not white. She also asks, “how come my knees are always so ashy? (Lorde, 1978) She continues to refer to her mother throughout the poem as being in the bedroom with the door closed. Without her mothers’ guidance, she is struggling in society because she has no guidance. Lorde argues that anyone enduring these forces would feel the loneliness and loss of identity that the young girl had felt. Literary Element-Imagery in “Barbie Doll” Imagery is used in “Barbie Doll” in several areas of the poem. Piercy uses lots of imagery to describe the struggles the girl experiences during her teenage years and the effects that can happen.

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In the first stanza, we see the beginning of an ideal image being stained in the girls mind. She was “presented dolls that did pee-pee and miniature GE ovens and irons and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy”. (Piercy, 1936) By being presented these gifts the girls parents have already instilled a visualization of what the perfect woman is like and the girl is already learning her place in society. Their place was in the kitchen and taking care of the kids. Piercy has painted an image to the reader of a little girl playing with toy stoves and irons and wearing red lipstick to make herself pretty.

Piercy writes, “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. ”(Piercy, 1936) The next line reads, “Doesn’t she look pretty? ” (Piercy, 1936) The derisive imagery criticizes gender discrimination of the modern society. The character has struggled to feel pretty until the pressure of society has became too much for her and in response to this has cut off her nose & legs. Literary Element- Imagery in “Hanging Fire”

The imagery of the mother plays a big part in the poem “Hanging Fire” by Audre Lorde. This line is repeated all throughout the poem, "and momma's in the bedroom with the door closed. " (Lorde, 1978) I think it is representative of the fact that this speaker has to grow up alone without the guidance of her mother. Another way to look at the imagery of the locked up mother is that her mother just wasn't there in the first place. Her mother could have been an absent figure in her life and that is a scary thing (to grow up without the guidance of a motherly figure).

Audre Lorde was a African American lady who went back and forth with her sexuality during times of struggles with civil rights. “Hanging Fire” may have been her way of expressing the guidance of her mother could have helped her through her confusion with her sexuality. I think this really impacted her, so she reminds herself and the reader of it at the end of every stanza. Compare/Contrast Authors Use of Literary Element Imagery Imagery is used to depict identity issues in “Barbie Doll” by Marge Piercy and in “Hanging Fire” by Audre Lorde.

In both “Barbie Doll” and “Hanging Fire,” a young girl struggles with their appearance. In “Barbie Doll” the author Marge Piercy uses imagery to portray a young girl who is unhappy with the way she looks. For instance, in the following lines “She was healthy, tested intelligent, possessed strong arms and back, abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity. She went to and fro apologizing. Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs,” (Piercy, 1936) although she possessed several good qualities, the only thing that stood out to her was her nose and legs.

In “Hanging fire,” the author Audre Lorde uses imagery to show a young woman struggling with her identity as well, not only with the physical part of her identity but the emotional side as well. After repeated use of the line, “and momma's in the bedroom with the door closed,” (Lorde, 1978) it is apparent the young girl struggles without the guidance of her mother. Literary Element- Symbolism in “Barbie Doll” The title “Barbie Doll” itself symbolizes a thin, curvy body, with symmetrical, perfect facial features.

The beginning of the poem starts out with, “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. ” (Piercy, 1936) This line symbolizes society’s expectations for a girls role in life. For example, introducing the mothering instinct, as well as cooking and cleaning while encouraging her to look pretty while doing all of that. The poem makes a reference to a fan belt, similar to a person’s “good nature,” will wear out from being over used and abused.

With line twenty’s mention of an “undertaker’s cosmetics painted on,” (Piercy, 1936) the author paints an image of disguise--suppressing hurt and anguish suffered when a girl was forced to absorb into a materialistic society that functions only according to the standards set by its members. In the beginning of the last stanza of “Barbie Doll,” the reader can achieve almost a sense of relinquishment as the subject symbolically “cut off her nose and her legs and offered them up. ” (Piercy, 1936) The reader is led to believe hat the girl has come to realize that she must account for the loneliness and emptiness that she has felt as a result of imitating a false person. In line 21, the putty nose symbolizes the “perfect nose” for a girl, even though it is very unrealistic. The pink and white clothes that the girl is wearing, symbolize colors that represent purity and femininity. The conclusion is her death, an act of her surrendering herself to the pain. Literary Element- Symbolism in “Hanging Fire” The title “Hanging Fire” symbolizes wanting to do something or, waiting on something to happen that you are expecting.

In this poem, the girl is ready to mature although her body has not done so yet. She has insecurities about her skin color and appearance. Audre Lorde grew up during the civil rights era and much of her poetry represents these types of feelings. In the line, “My skin has betrayed me” (Lorde, 1978), is symbolism for change. Not only what she is going through at that particular time, but how she is the black girl in the neighborhood, the outrage in this racist society. At this age, she is going through changes which affect every possible way of life.

She is going through changes in her body which may be related to puberty. Her ashy knees symbolize all the "falls" she has taken, representative of all the scars of her life. At the end of every stanza, Lorde writes “and momma’s in the bedroom with the door closed. ”(Lorde, 1978) This symbolizes the absence of her mother in her life. Without her mothers guidance the girl feels as though she must face the struggles of life alone. Compare/Contrast of Symbolism Symbolism in “Barbie Doll” is used by the author to represent the lack of self confidence of a girl who does not have society’s idea of the perfect body.

For example, “You have a great big nose and fat legs” (Piercy, 1936) gives a very good indication that the young girl is not part of the norm as far as beauty goes. “Piercy uses symbolism to convey the false views society has toward women, while in “Hanging Fire,” symbolism is used to portray a young girl who is impatiently waiting to see changes within her body. Lorde uses symbolism to show insecurities the young girl in “Hanging Fire” has with her body. For instance, in the line “and my skin has betrayed me” (Lorde, 1978) Lorde uses symbolism to show the change that her body is going through.

In both poems the characters are struggling with their appearance as well as other things. In difference, “Hanging Fire” was written in the civil rights era, leading me to believe Lorde used symbolism to show an African American girl struggling with race issues. While in Piercys’ “Barbie Doll,” symbolism is used to portray aspects of gender discrimination. Literary Element Tone in “Barbie Doll” The first four lines of “Barbie Doll” are written in simplistic tones which represent the normality and basic needs of infancy. The ironic tone of the poem criticizes gender discrimination of the modern society.

In the beginning of the poem, the tone is silent and simplistic at first, describing the norm for a child and what is expected from society, “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” (Piercy, 1936) The tone of the introductory stanza changes quickly in line five when the author writes “Then, in the magic of puberty, a classmate said You have a great big nose and fat legs. ” (Piercy, 1936) The last line of the second stanza again changes in tone from simple to straight-forward with the statement “Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs. (Piercy, 1936) This line re-emphasizes the offensiveness of not measuring up to the standard of an ideal female, a standard set by society. Tone is used to show the severity of the pressures that society can produce. Literary Element Tone in “Hanging Fire” Audre Lorde[-;0] used her diction to indicate the serious tone in "Hanging Fire. " Lorde used a serious tone to enforce that this poem was to be taken sincerely. "My skin has betrayed me" (Lorde, 1978) indicates not only that the skin appears displeasing, but that it is displeasing.

This also reveals that the tone is confident. The use of "and" instead of "if" gives the speaker a sad tone. The teenager in the poem worries excessively about everything, which is not abnormal from what most teenagers do. There is a sense of worry throughout the whole poem. She is stressed and the tone really represents that. The diction sets this tone because the speaker makes generalizations such as, "nobody even stops to think about my side of it," (Lorde, 1978) and how her skin has "betrayed," her. She is very overdramatic which is characteristic of a teenager.

The author also shows a sense of urgency such as in the lines “I have to learn how to dance in time for the next party. ” (Lorde, 1978) There are things the girl wants to accomplish and coveys that she feels a sense of urgency to do so. The serious and stressed tone of the poem conveys to the reader how serious the effects of the civil rights era were on many people and in particular young people. Compare/Contrast of Literary Element Tone The tone in "Barbie Doll” evolves and changes throughout the poem from a simplistic tone to a negative tone. While in “Hanging Fire,” the tone stays on serious side indicating signs of stress and worry.

In both poems the tone indicates stress, in “Barbie Doll,” it is due to the fact that others have pointed out the flaws they believe the girl has based on societies standards. While in “Hanging Fire” the tone indicates the girl never had confidence in the first place. Her mother was not there to encourage or support her which led to stress and worry over her cosmetic issues such as her ashy knees. The beginning of “Barbie Doll” starts out with a simplistic tone then changes to tone portraying low self esteem and cruelty. In particular in the line “You have a great big nose and fat legs” (Piercy, 1936) indicates cruelty the young girl endures.

The girl is described as smart and strong yet is still viewed negatively by others because of her nose and legs. The author uses tone to showcase that society as a whole is too obsessed with physical appearance and not focused on the qualities that really matter. In “Hanging Fire,” Lorde used a serious tone to enforce that this poem was to be taken sincerely. Tone is used to stress that the girl has many worries and that she needs to express them. Audre Lorde[->1] used very little punctuation in this poem to emphasize the variation of the worries of teenagers.

The use of “how come,” and “why do,” in the poem suggests frustration about her current situation as an African American girl struggling to find her way in life without the guidance of her mother. Author’s Engagement with Culture and Society Marge Piercy’s “Barbie Doll” “Barbie Doll” is a poem that follows the life of a young girl growing up with modern expectations that she struggles to conform to. The young girl begins to suffer and she develops anxiety and depression. She loses her self confidence and becomes inferior and weak. “Barbie Doll” uses different aspects of a woman’s life to express the different pressures on women today.

Marge Piercy grew up in a family greatly affected by the Great Depression. Due to the environment Piercy was raised in during the Great Depression, many of her works tend to be highly personal and often address concerns with feminist and social issues. Piercy’s poetry is known for its highly personal, often angry, and very emotional character. Author’s Engagement with Culture and Society Audre Lorde “Hanging Fire” “Hanging Fire” reveals a young girl who is troubled by the changes her body is going through as well as self confidence issues. Her lack of guidance is continuously mentioned throughout the poem.

Lorde expresses or explores racial and sexual oppression, urban neglect, and personal survival in many of her other writings as well as in “Hanging Fire. ” Lorde grew up during the civil rights era where she experienced first hand racism and prejudice. She addressed subjects concerning the complexity surrounding her life as an African American and as a woman. Fixed in her resentment of the racism and sexism that marked the history of the United States, Lorde dedicated her work to her ancestors, to the love and support of women, and to African Americans.

In conclusion, my analysis of the literary elements imagery, symbolism, and tone/mood in “Barbie Doll”, by Marge Piercy and, “Hanging Fire” by Audre Lorde reveals each character and their struggle with their identity in society. References http://www. americanpoems. com/poets/Marge-Piercy http://www. margepiercy. com/Piercy%20Website/sampling/Barbie_Doll. htm Poem http://www. poetryfoundation. org/bio/audre-lorde http://famouspoetsandpoems. com/poets/audre_lorde/poems/19831 Poem [->0] - .. /essay_search/Audre_Lorde. html [->1] - .. /essay_search/Audre_Lorde. html

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Analysis Hanging Fire & Barbie Doll. (2017, Dec 07). Retrieved from

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