Often in poems, characters are symbolic. Sometimes they are symbolic of a certain type of person, a situation, a feeling or even an event in the author’s life. It is important to carefully analyze characters to find out what exactly they represent. Doing so helps the reader further understand the deeper meaning of the poem because more often than not, there is a meaning much more deep than what is on the surface. In “Pathedy of Manners” by Ellen Kay, the character seems to represent lack of satisfaction, lost opportunity and regret. The poem paints for the readers, an image of a girl that had it all. She was Phi Beta Kapa in college, smart, pretty and sought after by men. She even went on to get married, “They had an ideal marriage and ideal but lonely children in an ideal house.” This shows that the children were not given much attention. Not even the children are happy in the “ideal house.” Later the poem says:
“I saw her yesterday at forty-three, her children gone, her husband one year dead, toying with plots to kill time and re-wed illusions of lost opportunity."
She realizes that it is too late to go back and choose a different path, but she wonders what her life would have been like if she had chosen differently. The man with real pearl cufflinks is not there for her anymore; her children are not living at home. She is lonely and lonely is a feeling that she is not used to. She is no longer satisfied with her life because everything that she wanted and had is gone. She feels very empty inside. The reader may get the impression that the main character was never happy. There is not enough evidence to support that. Only the information given can be used. She is regretful that she did not go out and make something of herself. The poem reads that she was “Toying with plots to kill time and re-wed illusions of lost opportunity.” This means that