The Not-Girl

In Tiptree’s short story The Girl Who Was Plugged In, the idea of being a “real” girl versus an unreal girl, a freak, a monster, is repeatedly brought up. The narrative society’s idea of a “goddess” as they say is someone who is perfect in every single way. And a perfect person consists of beauty, grace, and a lavish livelihood. This idolization is what drives people to buy products in a world without advertising. P. Burke is the exact opposite. She is a poor, deformed teenager who dreams of beauty and happiness. When given the opportunity to literally live another life, she thinks of and wishes for nothing else. She forgets her own self as she lives through this perfect girl with a perfect life. So long as she follows the rules, she is free to live the life she never dreamed she could. For a while, it seems like a great arrangement. She goes to parties, tries out new products, and gets to experience luxuries she never had as P.Burke. But when she finds that her new body was never really hers to begin with, she begins to unravel, and finds that even with all the money and fame in the world, she can never be truly happy with the person she longs to be with. The cost of her fame and beauty is her free will, and P.Burke unthinkingly hands it away happily. While P. Burke is her own person, she too is trapped, providing services for a civilization that deems her unworthy for anything else.  Even at the end of her story, when the one who claims to love her sees her as she truly is for the first time, he is disgusted by her form and ends up causing her death. P. Burke realized too late that what she truly wanted was the one thing she could never have: to be accepted for who she really was, and to not be judged by her appearance, whether gorgeous or monstrous. Both sides of this coin end in tragedy, and the author’s main point is that if people finds themselfs living as either Delphi or P.Burke, they will not be happy for long.

Lauren Shafford

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