“Oh! You Beautiful Doll!”: Icon, Image, and Culture in Works by Alvarez, Cisneros, and Morrison

Trinna S. Frever, University of Michigan, Flint
Vol. 28, No. 1 (Spring 2009), 121-139

The doll as depicted in fiction and popular culture, in song and in story, is a multifaceted symbol for societal disputes over what it is to be female. In particular works, the doll image also becomes a playing field for contests of cultural and national identity. This essay discusses three pivotal depictions of dollhood within this context: Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents , Sandra Cisneros’s “Barbie-Q,” and the now-famous doll dismemberment scene from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. These three authors use of the doll stretches beyond literary symbol to cultural site because of the doll’s iconic status in contemporary society, its close ties to the value system of the U.S.-dominant culture, and its ever-present uneasy representation of womanhood. In each work, the doll image functions to fuse literary, gendered, cultural, and pop-cultural concerns, played out in the text, and played with by literary girls and their authors.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]