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In the poem "Pathedy of Manners," by Ellen Kay, the comic elements are mainly in the witty way that the central character's life is portrayed. We have a brilliant young woman who uses her mind to learn the "cultured jargon" of jewelers, to praise the popular artists, and to learn the art of small talk. Her education was abandoned for the enlightening experience in Europe where she met an "impovered marquis" and "learned to tell real Wedgwood from a fraud." Instead of advancing herself and truly making contributions to society, the woman engages in trivialities and materialism.
The humor of this narrative comes from the tale itself. Her deeds are reported without judgment as accomplishments and with seeming admiration. She has an "ideal marriage" and an "ideal house."
Yet we also see beneath the irony a very lonely and empty existence. The woman chose to do what she was expected to do. She followed all the rules. She married the right man, had the requisite children, and furnished a beautiful house. But after her husband dies and her children leave, the woman herself finds she has no true identity. She has no real friends and no mind of her own. She will continue to walk in empty circles "to the end." Her life is pathetic, and readers are acutely aware that her choices have led to a great waste of talent and intellect.
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