The Characterization Of Miss Brill Essay Research

The Characterization Of Miss Brill Essay, Research Paper

In the Bedford Introduction to Literature, Characterization is defined as “… the process by which a writer makes that character seem real to the reader”(2126). In order to do this a writer has multiple tools at their disposal that add to the depth of a character and simplify roles in a story. This includes the use of Protagonists and Antagonists, static and dynamic characters, showing and telling, and motivated and plausible action, as well as many others. The short story “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield is no exception to this and displays the main character of Miss Brill as the protagonist, who is confronted with the reality of her existence.

In order to bring us closer to Miss Brill, Mansfield uses the technique of showing, by which she lets the reader infer what sort of character Miss Brill is simply by the descriptions and dialogue of the environment around her. This is opposed to the method of Telling, in which the author make comments and evaluates the protagonist’s actions for the reader.

Mansfield also writes the story “Miss Brill” with Miss Brill having motivated action, in which she describes and gives reasons for all the little things that make her tick. This is essential for the reader to understand her views upon life and emotions, for example “On her way home she usually bought a slice of honey-cake at the baker’s. It was her Sunday treat. Sometimes there was an almond in her slice, sometimes not. It made a great difference. If there was an almond it was like carrying home a tiny present – a surprise – something that might very well not have been there. She hurried on the almond Sunday’s and struck the match for the kettle in a dashing way” (Mansfield 261). By saying this it becomes clear that Miss Brill draws a great deal of enjoyment from such a simple pleasure, which greatly adds to the feeling of the story when immediately after she states “But today she passed the baker’s by…” (Mansfield 261) a sign of how much she has been hit by the realization of what she is. This is also a nice example of the fore mentioned method of showing, allowing the reader to draw the conclusion of the situation alone.

One of the most vital elements of the story though is the classification of Miss Brill as a dynamic character. Being a dynamic character entail that the knowledge about the character grows and that some kind of change takes place because of the action occurring in the plot. In “Miss Brill” this hinges on the fact that Miss Brill spends her time alone, with almost no actual human contact. Her only means of living life is through that of those around her, she watches their actions, listens to their conversations and acts like a hidden parasite, drawing her own meaning in life by observing others, or as she put it “… there was always the crowd to watch” (Mansfield 259).

The tragedy of the story rests in that she does not see herself as this. She describes some of the other people in the park as “… they were nearly always the same, Sunday after Sunday, and – Miss Brill had often noticed – there was something funny about nearly all of them. They were odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they’d come just come from dark little rooms or even – even cupboards!” (Mansfield 259), this is exactly what she is. Not only does this provide the reader with the knowledge that she doesn’t see herself like this, it gives the insight of her dislike of these people, which works to her ultimate tragedy in the end.

In the end her downfall is caused by the very thing that kept her, “… that stupid old thing at the end there?” asked the boy. “Why does she come here at all – who wants her? Why doesn’t she keep her silly mug at home?” “Its her fu-fur which is so funny,” giggled the girl. “It’s exactly like a fried whiting.” “Ah, be off with you!” said the boy in an angry whisper” (Mansfield 261). No more can she live her life as she did before, she knows what she is and can never go back. “… today she passed the baker’s by, climbed the stairs, went into the little dark room – her room like a cupboard – and sat down on the red elderdown. She sat there for a long time. The box that the fur came out of was on the bed. She unclasped the necklet quickly; quickly, without looking, laid it inside. But when she put the lid on she thought she heard something crying” (Mansfield 261). In the end the reader never knows what happens to Miss Brill, does she lock herself away? Or does she rise above her solitude? Whatever the conclusion, she is a changed person.


The Bedford Introduction to Literature 5th Edition.


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