In Katherine Mansfield’s short story “Miss Brill,” the title character’s isolation is emphasized, in a number of ways, by her presence in a park. Those ways include the following:
- Miss Brill not only addresses her fur piece (at least mentally) but also imagines it addressing her, as if she is lonely enough that she carries on an imaginary conversation with a piece of clothing.
- Miss Brill observes other people walking in the park but doesn’t interact with them by waving or saying hello and making any effort to acknowledge them. Initially she seems fairly isolated.
- In a particularly intriguing paragraph, Mansfield at first seems to suggest that other people, sitting near her, don’t speak to Miss Brill; instead, however, Miss Brill actually seems to have no interest at all in engaging them in conversation but would prefer to overhear their conversation with each other – a conversation they don’t provide:
Only two people shared her "special" seat: a fine old man in a velvet coat, his hands clasped over a huge carved walking-stick, and a big old woman, sitting upright, with a roll of knitting on her embroidered apron. They did not speak. This was disappointing, for Miss Brill always looked forward to the conversation. She had become really quite expert, she thought, at listening as though she didn't listen, at sitting in other people's lives just for a minute while they talked round her.
- When the couple don’t speak, Miss Brill implies her comfort with her isolation by speculating that perhaps the couple will soon leave.
- When Miss Brill recalls a conversation she overheard a week earlier, she doesn’t recall any effort on her part to participate in that conversation. Instead, she mainly recalls her annoyance with the woman who was speaking. Once again, Miss Brill’s experiences in the park make her seem isolated.
- Turning her thoughts away from the recent past, Miss Brill now watches some other people present in the park, but again she makes no effort to interact with them. She seems to be an observer rather than a naturally gregarious person.
- At one point, Miss Brill notices couples, but their engagement with one another only emphasizes, by contrast, her isolation:
Two young girls in red came by and two young soldiers in blue met them, and they laughed and paired and went off arm-in-arm.
No romantic attachments are suggested in connection with Miss Brill. In fact, the mere fact that Miss Brill is called “Miss Brill” rather than “Mrs. Brill” implies that she has not been married. Presumably she has never had children, although she does observe children in the park -- another way in which her isolation is highlighted. In fact, she observes all kinds of different people, behaviors, and relationships in the park but doesn’t seem involved in any of them herself except vicariously and through observation.
Essay about Katherine Mansfield's Miss Brill
627 Words3 Pages
Illusion vs. Reality in Miss Brill
"Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield is set the Jardins Publiques in France. Every Sunday Miss Brill looks forward to getting dressed up and visiting the park, where she enjoys people watching. Her weekly visits to the park are undoubtedly the highlight of her week, bringing her great joy and satisfaction. There are many illusions in this story, in this essay I intend to show three different illusions Miss Brill uses to make herself happy and how her reality is shattered at the end of the story by a chance remark.
Miss Brill's first illusion is her fur, which she thinks of as being alive. Mansfield writes, "Dear little thing! ...and rubbed the life back into the dim little eyes. `What has been…show more content…
Miss Brill soon observes a lady and a gentleman having a brief encounter in the park, and she imagines what is being said on between the couple. Through this encounter one sees that Miss Brill is living vicariously through the people in the park to fulfill her loneliness. Miss Brill's voyeurism leaves her feeling as though she has interactions with these people; this, in turn, leaves her happy and fulfilled. The truth is she is a very lonely person looking to fill her time in the park with imagined relationships.
Miss Brill's third illusion is that she thinks of herself as "an actress"(123) in a play. This illusion gives Miss Brill great pleasure and exhilaration, as she thinks, "They were all on stage... they were acting" (123) and that she is "An Actress"(123), which is an important part of her illusion. Mansfield writes, "Who could believe the sky at the back wasn't painted?"(123). This statement leads readers to believe that Miss Brill thinks of the sky and the park as the set of the play. She believes that the all of the park patrons "weren't only the audience"(123) but also the actors in a great play. Miss Brill even sees a dog that happens to be walking across the park as a " `theater' dog. She also believes that "somebody would have noticed if she hadn't been there" (123) for her Sunday performance, and that she would be greatly missed. In actuality she is not an actress in a play but one of the many people enjoying the park.