Can someone help me write a paragraph of commentary about the last line of the poem "Barbie Doll"? "To every woman a happy ending."

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

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Marge Piercy's poem "Barbie Doll" is a social commentary on the unreasonably high expectations for women as set by society. The poem makes it clear this standard is impossible to achieve--at least not while one is alive--and starts with something relatively careless at a young age. The first stanzas outline an average girl's life up to the point where someone makes a random but hurtful comment about the size of her nose and her weight. From then on, everything she thinks about herself is shaped by that perceived insult until she finally commits suicide because she succumbs to the pressures and can no longer cope. 

The last stanza is a little different in tone, for it is the author's commentary on her death, and it is riddled with satire.

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.
Doesn't she look pretty? everyone said.
Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.

The visual Piercy creates is eerily similar to a pink-clothed Barbie doll in her packaged box which one might pull off the shelf in any toy store. The comments of the funeral-goers (all of whom are undoubtedly showing much more interest in her now than when she was alive) may be accurate, but they are satiric, as well. She was undoubtedly prettier alive than dead, but they could not or did not tell her so. If they had, this young girl might still be alive. The "consummation" line is satiric, in that this girl has finally achieved her goal of looking pretty in others' eyes but is no longer alive to enjoy or appreciate the adulation.

The last line, then, is probably rather satiric as well and therefore open to some interpretation. There are no true "happy endings" in the poem, and Piercy is commenting on the fact that this is not an uncommon problem with women and society. The last line, if rewritten, might read something like this: To all women who listen to what society tells you, this is the only way you will ever make society happy.  It might also read like this: If being pretty by society standards is your goal, women, this is how to achieve it. Or perhaps you have another slant on this line. In any case, the satire is evident.

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