What does the last verse of the poem "Barbie Doll" mean?


Barbie Doll

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The last verse of the poem "Barbie Doll" by Marge Piercy speaks of the way modern society focuses on the external when it comes to analyzing the worth of an individual, especially women, in society. Advertising and other messages push out and trumpet the message that women must be excessively slim, painted up with make-up, and aspire to an image considered attractive and sexy if they wish to be looked upon positively in this world. There is little or no advertising that conveys the message that the inner person is really what matters - how a person lives their life in service to others, while working to pursue and realize quality dreams in a dignified manner.

In the poem, in the last verse, the female in the poem lies on satin in a casket. She has taken her own life because she felt she did not live up to society's expectations of her, physical and otherwise. In her life, she may not have been a physical beauty in some peoples' eyes; she was considered to have a big nose and fat legs. People advised her to "play coy" and to "come on hearty,", but she found trying to live up to society's expectations was too much. She wanted to be herself, whatever imperfections she may have had; but society demanded more of her - did not like what they saw of her.

In death, in her casket, the female in the poem now has...

     a turned-up putty nose,
     dressed in a pink and white nightie.

The implication and words said are that she now looks "pretty." It took death and the undertaker's make-up/cosmetics, and the way they dressed her in her casket, for her to be conformed, finally, to what society expected of her. This is supposedly her "happy ending." The poem is a fierce indictment of the glorification and obsession with a false physical beauty so prevalent in society today.


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