What is ironic about this poem?
This poem is ironic because the "girlchild" of the first line eventually achieves society's standard of physical perfection—the only measure of her worth important enough for people to notice—when she dies. Despite her intelligence and health, her strength and sexuality, for her entire life, she was made to feel as though she must apologize for herself because of her "fat nose" and "thick legs." That's what everyone saw when they looked at her. She was told to "play coy," to diet and to smile, and she resorted to plastic surgery in order to achieve society's ideal of feminine perfection. However, something must have gone wrong, because she died—with her perfect nose and her "pink and white nightie" that showed off her legs—and the only thing people commented on was how pretty she looked in her casket. She finally achieved social acceptance, her "happy ending," though she had to kill herself, trying to reach an unrealistic standard, to get it. The irony is that women are made to feel that achieving physical perfection is more important than actual happiness, or health, or even life.
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