This girlchild was born as usual
and presented dolls that did pee-pee
and miniature GE stoves and irons
and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs.

She was healthy, tested intelligent,
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.

She was advised to play coy,
exhorted to come on hearty,
exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.
Her good nature wore out
like a fan belt.
So she cut off her nose and her legs
and offered them up.

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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Marge Piercy's poem Barbie Doll


  1. terra says:

    i love it

  2. Carl says:

    It does make sense when you read the poem again that Marge’s words isn’t necessarily referring to the girl’s death. So in this way, the casket is the bed of the newly weds under the commonly used quote, “Marriage is the tomb of love”

    Barbie Dolls are plastic toys, they’re merely the values that our society wants to add on every girl. And after all the girls offer up their natures for the peer pressures or the marriage, they become barbie dolls in caskets.

  3. sara says:

    in regards to the definition of consummation given by Ashlee.. it really means “the point at which an act is completed or finalized- SUCH AS “completion of a marriage by sexual intercourse”

  4. Angela says:

    While I can see the nightie as a wedding gown and all…I see it as more or less she is undergoing cosmetic surgery in order to change her flaws. Let us not overlook that pink and white are colors also commonly associated with Barbie and girls in general..the putty nose could very well be the plastic nose. Just a thought.

  5. Ashlee says:

    This poem is more then just her “killing herself”, this poem is about marriage and the only way to find a guy was to work herself to the bone, to get rid of her nose and legs. she didn’t actually cut them off, the white and pink nightie.. a wedding dress, undertaker-her mother, in order to find a husband she gave her feelings and thoughts up.. to become.. plastic.. a carbon copy of a Barbie doll. the end stanza where she said “Consummation at last” …consummation is a term that means the completion of a marriage by sexual intercourse.

  6. doonyryan says:

    Sure the poem is shocking but I think it’s poorly done. I usually don’t complain about unrealistic endings but this was unrealistic and ineffective. We don’t really learn much about the girl and don’t get any picture of how she felt. The chopping off of her legs and nose is incongruous, if you know what I mean.

  7. Alyssa says:

    This poem, for me, shows the harshness of words and the extremes that people take them to. It should be a wake up call for us, and to watch what we say.

  8. Blah Blah Blah says:

    This poem has a pretty extreme outlook on the subject of perfection. I think the author is trying to say that the standards of how a woman should look are set impossibly high, and therefore many women have low self esteem and depression. The girl in the poem fatally hurts herself to live up to the expectations of the world. She cuts off her legs and nose and therefore, dies. This poem is a way too depressing and extremist for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Marge Piercy better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.