– Miss Brill Essay, Research Paper
The story Miss Brill, written by Katherine Mansfield, is an analysis of a woman who lives her life through the observation of others. It is written in third person, from the subjective point of view of the title character. Throughout the story, the author uses many characterization techniques to convey to the reader a true expression of the woman s unusual personality.
The short story is very effectively written in third person, limited point of view for this is, in fact, how Miss Brill sees herself. Living through the conversations and actions of others, Miss Brill feels passion, excitement and sadness. She is very much withdrawn from her own feelings and, instead, she relies on other people s lives to entertain her. The story is set on a Sunday afternoon, which Miss Brill has looked forward to so she can spend the afternoon in the park that is always bustling with activities of the people she watches. The point of view that the author chose allows us to see Miss Brill as she sees herself, from an outside perspective.
The protagonist in the story, Miss Brill, takes delight in even the simplest things. For example, she thinks of the park bench she sits on as her special seat . She notices that the conductor has a new jacket and imagines that the songs he chooses reflect the activities of the people in the park. Miss Brill takes delight in extremely small details and although she has a great lack of self-awareness, she is a keen observer of others. Miss Brill is obviously not a very intelligent woman and she falsely interprets many of the situations around her. Katherine Mansfield does an excellent job in portraying Miss Brill s lack of understanding of the world she observes so closely.
In Miss Brill s mind, she is not only observing, but actually taking part in other s lives. She considers herself an expert at sitting in other people s lives for a minute while they talked round her. Miss Brill imagines that she is taking part in a play with the park as her theatre. She even goes so far as to predict that she would be missed by the other actors in the park if she hadn t been there that Sunday afternoon. Miss Brill creates an illusion of the performance in an effort to make herself feel confident and accepted.
Miss Brill is a lonely, sensitive, and insecure woman who tries to gain what she is missing in her life from the lives of other people. The context in which the name of the character is given to you, Miss Brill, suggests that she has never been married and probably lives alone in her apartment. She is critical of elderly people several times in the story and complains that one man sits on his bench as still as a statue. Of the people who sit every Sunday in the same area where she sits, she notices something funny about nearly all of them. They were odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared it looked as though they d just come from little dark rooms or even–even cupboards! Meanwhile, the main character, who is probably quite old herself, also sits quietly on her park bench, staring at the people in the park. Miss Brill is incapable of seeing herself this way, however, and she makes no connection to the way others may view her until the end of her afternoon in the park when her illusion is shattered by a young woman s comment.
When Miss Bliss overhears a girl s comment that her fox fur looks like a fried whiting her feelings are deeply hurt, although she is unable to admit it to herself. She imagines that it is her fox fur that has been insulted. This gives the reader the full effect of Miss Brill s observation of others as well as her lack of self-awareness. On her way home she doesn t stop for her usual slice of honeycake that sometimes contains an almond because she doesn t want to face another disappointment if the almond were not there. She returns to her house, which she now sees as a dark cupboard, forever changed by one small insignificant moment. As she puts her fur away she thinks she hears it crying. Miss Brill is incapable of admitting that it is her feelings that are hurt and cannot shed her own tears caused by her grief and humiliation.
The character in this story represents people who refuse to recognize and express their feelings. The story s plot has no suspense or exciting events leading up to a climax, but is an excellent portrayal of a single character. Using dramatic characterization techniques as well as an effective point of view, Katherine Mansfield develops for the reader a clear picture of the story s focus, the character of Miss Brill.