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The poem opens with the speaker referencing the birth of a "girlchild" and all of the typical toys that go along with it. When the girl hits puberty, her sweet classmates tell her she has a big nose and fat legs. Meanwhile the girl is strong, intelligent, and healthy but the kids only see a big nose and fat legs. She's told how to behave, to be coy, and always wear a smile. Eventually she feels worn out "like a fan belt," so she cuts off her nose and legs and offers them up. In the casket the mortician has made a putty nose for her and because of her fake nose, everyone says she looks pretty. And, because she looks pretty, the girlchild has a happy ending (even though she's dead).