Miss Brill Essay, Research Paper
Miss Brill: Point of View
The narrator in the story “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield, is telling us this story in the third person singular perspective. Our narrator is a non-participant and we learn no details about this person, from a physical sense. Nothing to tell us whether it is a friend of Miss Brill, a relative, or just someone watching. Katherine Mansfield’s Miss Brill comes alive from the descriptions we get from this anonymous person. The narrator uses limited omniscience while telling us about this beautiful Sunday afternoon. By this I mean the narrator has a great insight into Miss Brill’s perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and into her world as a whole, but no real insight into any of the other characters in this story. By using this point of view, we see the world through the eyes of Miss Brill, and feel her emotions, even though this third party is telling us the story.
This beautiful fall afternoon in France unfolds before our eyes because of the pain-staking details given to us by the narrator. We aren’t told many things straight out, but the details are such that we can feel the chill coming into the air and see the leaves of fall drifting to the earth. The figurative language that is used is superb from beginning to end. The imagination and detail made me see what was happening and hear the band play. The characters in the park are observed through the eyes of Miss Brill, and we learn bits of information of those who catch her eye. The detail of the observations that Miss Brill makes can be fully realized by turning to anywhere in this story and starting to read. As a reader, you get caught up in the story and lose the fact that there is a narrator. The details as told, seem to be coming directly from Miss Brill at times.
The narrator gets us settled into the park with Miss Brill and tells us that she sees those around her as “odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they’d just come from dark little rooms or even-even cupboards!” This tells me that Miss Brill sees herself differently than she sees others, not odd or funny. She is a part of all this life and activity at the park! An actor in the grand play and “somebody would have noticed if she hadn’t been there.” She really loved to be out with others and thought that she was very much a part of the world and not apart from it. Don’t we all feel this way? Some people are truly introverted and care little of interacting, but I think the majority of us strive to become part of the world and at times feel like this life is one big drama and we have a big part. Our role might only be important for one scene, but we feel like the leading man or woman at times.
The narrator leads us to what appears to be a fitting climax; a crescendo of music and song, with all players involved. Miss Brill’s dreams of this were quickly shattered. The comments by the young people, “Why does she come here at all-who wants her? Why doesn’t she keep her silly mug at home?” leaves Miss Brill with the cold realization that she is in fact like the odd, old people that she watches in the park. She hurries home, not even stopping at the bakery, which was part of her usual Sunday ritual. She retreats to her “little dark room-her room like a cupboard”, as she had described earlier as where these odd folks probably lived. She was now faced with the grim fact that she wasn’t a grand player at all. She would not be missed if she didn’t show up. She really is one of those people on the bench watching the world go by. As she puts her fur away and the narrator tells us “when she put the lid on she thought she heard something crying”, I feel like life will never be the same for Miss Brill. The fur knows it might not be going out for a very long time. I’m not sure if she’ll ever go back to the park. If she does, it will not be the same. She will have a whole new perspective. An outcast, a lonely spectator watching life pass by, the thrill and excitement, even joy of being an actor is gone. Katherine Mansfield’s use of this point of view was perfect for Miss Brill. We feel her pain as she is faced with the sudden reality of the emptiness of her life. We hope we aren’t faced with the same reality of being a watcher, apart from others, and not a part of it all.
Gary L. Gerhart 1 May 2001
Mansfield, Katherine. “Miss Brill.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Diana Gioia. 7th ed. New York:1999. 49-53