What has she finally achieved in death that she couldn't in life in "Barbie Doll"?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Marge Piercy's poem "Barbie Doll" is the tragic account of a young woman who grew insecure and dissatisfied enough about her appearance to actually take her own life. It begins with a few careless comments about the size of her nose and her legs.

Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs. 

What we understand as outsiders looking in is that she is actually "normal" in every way; but kids are cruel and thoughtless and these two body parts become a source of misery for her for the rest of her short life.

The answer to your question can be found in the last stanza of the poem. She is described for us as follows:

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.

She is pretty in pink and her nose does is not big, as a classmate said to her years before. She is beautiful in her death. The next line is the key.

Doesn't she look pretty? everyone said.

What she finally achieves is approval for how she looks. The kind words and compliments come too late, of course.

Consummation at last.

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