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Marge Piercy creates dark, situational irony in her poem "Barbie Doll" through the use of imagery and pop culture references. The poem addresses the importance society places on feminine beauty, emphasized by the female character's desire to be found attractive.
In the end of the poem, the unnamed woman, frustrated by her "fat nose and thick legs," hacks them off and dies. Piercy uses the last stanza to create an ironic twist; in death, the mourners at the funeral finally find the young woman attractive. The female character finally achieves her true wish, but at the cost of her own life and limbs. The act of hacking off her limbs is a hyperbole, a huge exaggeration for how far women are willing to go to change their natural appearance. It is interesting to note that the appearance the mourners actually find lovely is one that is dead and completely false, made up of "undertaker's cosmetics" and "putty." Piercy suggests that society is more apt to value false appearances over reality.
Piercy's poem challenges the value put on outward appearances and the practice of emphasizing a certain type of exterior beauty by giving young girls toys like Barbie Dolls and "wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy." The young woman in the poem never realizes her true value, that she was healthy, intelligent, or strong, because she feels that people can only focus on unattractive features.
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