Miss Brill – An image of today’s society?
The world moves up and people get connected with each other more and more via internet and television. Nevertheless, within this closer-getting world everybody knows the feeling of being lonely and deserted among the crowd. In her short story “Miss Brill” Katherine Mansfield depicts a lonely woman’s way of ignoring her status of solitude and at last her failure in it.
Every Sunday Miss Brill breaks her solitude by going out into the park, not only for observing but also eavesdropping other people there, slipping into their lives for a moment. As a result she thinks to escape isolation – an idea which is destroyed very brutally in the end.
For Miss Brill runs through absolutely contrary emotions during the story, Katherine Mansfield uses a third-person singular perspective with limited omniscience to give the reader a deep insight into the lady’s thoughts and feelings. Her choice of perspective makes the story gripping in a very special way. On the one hand, by concentrating only on Miss Brill’s point of view, we can feel her pleasure, her pain and despair as well as she does. On the other hand, the use of a third-person narrator perspective preserves the possibility to describe the lady’s emotional status in words sounding more objective than it would have been with an I-narrator.
Nonetheless, the author uses a very interesting possibility of reporting the conversations Miss Brill is listening to, Mrs Mansfield jumps between direct speech, as when the wife of the Englishman bothers “They’ll always be sliding down my nose! [spectacles]” (310), and indirect speech, for example when it is said about the same woman that “she knew she needed them; but that it was no good getting any” (310). This change of direct and indirect speech is often used in private conversations, and therefore Katherine Mansfield creates a personal atmosphere between Miss Brill and the reader.
"Miss Brill" is a short story by Katherine Mansfield (1888–1923). It was first published in Athenaeum on 26 November 1920, and later reprinted in The Garden Party and Other Stories.
Miss Brill is an English teacher living near the Public Gardens in a French town. The narrative follows her on a regular Sunday afternoon, which she spends walking about and sitting in the park.
The story opens with Miss Brill delighting in her decision to wear her fur. She notices that there are more park-goers than there were last Sunday, and that the band is more enthusiastic because the Season has commenced. Miss Brill observes facets of the lives around her, "listening as though she didn't listen, ...sitting in other people's lives just for a minute while they talked round her". She sees the world as a play: as though her surroundings are a set and she and her fellow park-goers actors. She imagines that the band's performance corresponds with and highlights the park's happenings. When the band strikes up a new song, Miss Brill envisions everyone in the park taking part in the song and singing. She begins to cry at the thought.
A young couple arrive and share Miss Brill's bench. Miss Brill believes they are nicely dressed and warmly pictures them as the "hero and heroine" of the play. However, she overhears the boy make a rude remark about Miss Brill being a "stupid old thing", and the girl agrees, "It's her fu-fur which is so funny."
On a typical Sunday, Miss Brill would stop by the bakery, but on this particular day, she goes straight home to a dark room. As she returns her fur to its box, Miss Brill "[thinks] she [hears] something crying".
Point of view
"Miss Brill" is written in the third person limited omniscient point of view and switches at the story's close to dramatic.
- Fur—the fur's life parallels Miss Brill's: it is removed from its small, dark residence and brought into the open, only to be returned to its lonely box at the story's close. Miss Brill refers to the fur as a "rogue", an adventurer, though her own life is idle and lonely.
- Ermine toque—the once-fine fur's state of decay parallels the grayness of those sitting on the park benches and, as it turns out, that of Miss Brill herself.
- Orchestra—Miss Brill's emotions are reflected and echoed by the orchestra's performance.
- Illusion versus reality
- Youth and age
The text is written in the modernist mode, third-person limited point of view, without a set structure.
- Wright, Richard. "The Man Who Was Almost a Man." The Story and Its Writer. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2011. 878–87. Print.
- ^Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau, ed. (2005). "Katherine Mansfield". galenet.galegroup.com. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- ^Katherine Mansfield, Selected Stories, Oxford World's Classics, explanatory notes
- ^Wright, Richard (2011). The Man Who Was Almost a Man. Bedford/ St. Martin's. p. 883.
- ^ abPeter Thorpe (2005-05-08). "Teaching Miss Brill". College English.com. 23 (8): 661–663. doi:10.2307/373778. JSTOR 373778.