Throughout history young girls have been held to society’s impossible standards time and time again. In Sandra Cisneros’ short story Barbie-Q, the narrator illustrates the effects this can have on the life of a female adolescent. The story depicts the perspective that a little girl has on her society through parallels to her and her sister’s Barbie dolls. In the passage, the protagonist is shown that you do not have to have everything to be considered rich. Through materialism and gender role, the narrator proves the impact that society places on young adolescents and their perspective on life.
The short story begins with a young female pointing out the differences in her and her sister’s Barbies. The narrator states, “ Yours is the one with the mean eyes and a ponytail. Striped swimsuit, stilettos, sunglasses, and gold hoop earrings. Mine is the one with bubble hair, Red swimsuit, stilettos, pearl earrings, and a wire stand”(183). in order to point out that society has encouraged young adolescents to compare themselves to others. People want things that they don’t have, and they are in a constant competition to get what they think they need, thus influencing society to become materialistic. Cisneros seeks to illustrates that instead of encouraging children to become independent and altruistic, society urges adolescents to strive to obtain every tangible, name brand, and popular thing that is available. Further, this provides young adolescents with reasoning that one is more important than the other. Cisneros exemplifies that it would be race in this case as she goes into further detail about how one Barbie is more in style than the other with illustrating the environment the characters are surrounded by along with the background information we are given.
Throughout the story, the Cisneros describes that the narrator’s family is not an average American family. They frequently struggle finically and are known as lower class. As the little girl and her sister are walking through the flea market they see Barbie dolls that are not in the best of care. Towards the end of the story the girls realize that the Barbie’s have burns, a scent, and were a little melted. Through this illustration, Cisneros provides readers with a perspective that society does categorize people and things based upon race. In an article written about Barbie-Q, Leticia Romo writes, “it should be noted that Barbie dolls, with all their paraphernalia, are relatively expensive,’ which makes them an object not easily accessible to the lower class, thus bringing into play the friction between the rich and the poor”(Romo). This quote is similar to the essay because of how Cisneros illustrates un-equality and economical status with Barbie dolls. The title of the article “ Barbie-Q” A Subversive or Hegemonic Popular Text?” by Leticia Romo, can be significant because it argues that the figure of a barbie doll can be viewed in a wide perspective. In this case, “Barbie-Q” is hegemonic because the essay illustrates how the dominant class or in the essay a Barbie doll are praised in society. Because of this, Cisneros creates a parallel structure between the girls and the Barbies as they realize that the Barbies are flawed just as they are. They aren’t the average pretty girls, but they are who they are meant to be. Cisneros’ writes “ If you dress her in her new “ Prom Pinks” outfit, satin splendor with matching coat, gold belt, clutch, and hair bow included, so long as you don’t life her dress right? – Who’s to know”(184). In today’s society, people are quick to judge others based upon what they have or what they look like, but if society were to look deeper at those whom people idol, would they have scars, burns, or smells that they hide? Cisneros illustrates that since the girls are not the prominent race, society tends to ostracize them because they are not perfect.
In the short story, materialism and race play major roles in what the narrator is trying to imply. In the world today, society depicts each and every person depending upon if they are economically stable or if they are the ideal race. Instead of embracing the differences society teaches young adolescents to compete and pick out other peoples differences. Much like many people in today’s society must do, the little girls in the story overcome their differences by accepting that they do not have the money to become materialistic and embrace that they are apart of a race that matters to them.
Cisneros, Sandra, “ Barbie-Q.” The Story and Its Writer. Compact 9th ed. Ed. Ann
Charters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 183-4.
Romo, Leticia I. “Sandra Cisneros’ “Barbie-Q”: A Subversive Or Hegemonic Popular Text?.” Studies In Latin American Popular Culture 24.(2005): 127-137. Academic Search Complete. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.