Choices have consequences and the choices that people make when they are young in a way make a huge impact on them later on in life. This essay will explore such a person, a woman who is viewed by the narrator as one who let pass by the things in life that make meaning. She took for granted life, friends and her own children but came to terms with this fact when it was too late. In the poem Pathedy of Manners by Ellen Kay, we meet a woman, who has had good times in life yet ends up lonely. The reader gets to understand and know the woman better because Kay employs literary features such as similes, strong imagery, poem structure together with the prime theme of loneliness, remorse and self worth to portray a woman who has gone through so much in life from the very best times to the worst where she is left lonely.
The structure of the poem has also been used to describe the twists and turns that her life takes in order to emphasize herself worth and eventual loneliness and remorse. From the overall story told in the poem, is told in two parts. The reader gets to understand the life of the main character. She is a brilliant young woman who has made good use of her mind to learn the “ cultured jargon” (5) that sets her aside. She seems to be happy, and everyone else envies her but this lasts only up to the fourth stanza when the change of winds turns her from a woman who looked happy and contented. The last three stanzas present a woman who is lonely who is not happy at all. Everyone seemed to envy her but then we quickly learn that she is not as happy as she looks, deep down her heart is an empty void that not even money could fill. The emptiness and loneliness were made worse by the fact that not even the ideal husband, home and children were able to make her life worthwhile. The riches she possessed could not buy real friendship. All her life she had people who were close by, but who were not close enough to be called her real friends.
There are a couple of similes that are used to bring out her self- worth. She is called brilliant, honored, adored and Phi Beta Kappa to symbolize her positive attributes about her appearance. She is even better placed in using the cultured jargon that is identifiable with the high class. The woman in question has all that life has to offer. She is very beautiful and is said to be the envy of many who thought hers was the perfect life. She is full of life and is well aware of what it means to be self worth. This could be the reason she acts like she does because she is living her life to the fullest. It is no wonder that she is admirable. She is very attractive and seemed to attract men a lot. From the onset, one gets to see the beautiful part of her and how her life was good. It is until the fifth stanza when one gets to see what has befallen her. At forty three her husband is dead, and her children have left home. She wishes she could reverse the clock and so her remorse makes her think about getting married again. She has illusions of lost opportunity. It, therefore, means that even with the life that she had, even with having all the wealth, there was something that she was missing, the love and company of people who were close to her.
Kay also uses strong and vibrant imagery to present to the reader the strong woman that this woman was before tragedy befell her. Examples of the vibrant imageries include “ antique crystal” and “ authentic pearls” as well as “ catalogues of domes and tapestry.” Such images allow the reader to visualize the richness of the girl’s lifestyle before tragedy befell her. Pictures of her life changing become vivid and her sophistication just change at ones to a depressing life which she is not comfortable living. These pictures show how happiness turns into sorrow. It does not happen ones but over time something that this woman did not seem to realize. The tone of the poem too puts weight on the theme of remorse and self worth in the poem. The acquaintance who gives the account of this woman in question gives the story from a remorseful perspective. The woman wants to change her life and make it better by and chooses to infer and turn away from any form of accusations. Kay presents to the reader, a woman who is in possession of the powers that bring her success in the eyes of other people. It is these same powers that brought her material possessions which make her the envy of many. She “ rejected an impoverished marquis” which means that she was a girl belonging to high class already.
All in all, the poem is a sad one as we get to see how lonely life can be when one looses very close friends and family. The bottom line is that material things can never bring happiness. The circle of friends that one makes together with their family is much more important. It is one thing to belong to the high class, but another to be happy, Happiness cannot be brought by possessions but rather can be created if one chooses to. Many people just like this woman try so much to obtain the best in life but forget the little things that make life worthwhile. There is so much in life than material things that just compliment it. Luxuries cannot buy comfort and happiness. Kay uses the above mentioned literary devices to paint the picture of a woman who falls from grace to grass. The imagery and similes are used to give more emphasis to the life that the woman leads when she was younger and later on when she became older. The woman is troubled regardless of her social standing in society. He positive attributes are used side by side with her unfortunate sad ending in order to understand her past and present. One lesson that comes out for sure is that people should have a balanced life when it comes to material and immaterial possessions that life presents them. The poet uses structure to give the two perspectives to this woman’s life and hence, helping the reader have a sneak preview of her life from the beginning to where it is currently. All these literary devices work together to give a complete story of a life not so well lived
Kay, Ellen. Pathedy of Manners. Web. Retrieved on 2nd April 2014. http://ashlynnfenton. wordpress. com/2012/12/24/pathedy-of-manners-by-ellen-kay/