Commentary On Miss Brill Essay, Research Paper
Miss Brill is a shortstory by Katherine Mansfield seen from a limited omniscient view. The main character and host character for the narrator is Miss Brill, an English teacher who lives in a country with a french speaking population. The observations on which I base these conclutions are the fact that Miss Brill thinks about her english students and visits the Jardins Publicues, french for public park.
The first impression I got of miss Brill was that she was a wealty older lady who visit a weekly park concert. She has her own “special” seat, and enjoys to listen to other peoples conversations. She seems to suffer from “the person living in a foreign country, not liking to meet tourists from her home country”. She’s very dissapointed when an english couple one sunday sits next to her and she has to listen to their conversation. She also thinks that the Englishman wears a “dreadful” Panama hat. The readers picture of Miss Brill however changes during the shortstory. All the time there’s small indications that Miss Brill isn’t as happy as she’s trying to act, and not as wealty as one first thinks. She’s trying to convince herself that she doesn’t feel sad and that there’s something odd about everyone else at the concert; “And when she breathed, something light and sad – no not sad…” (p. 340), “They were 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!” (p. 341). The second statement is specially interesting, as the shortstory later on reveals that she herself lives in a little dark room, like a cupboard. This creates an interesting conflict, she acts like she would like to be part of the croud and at the same time be superior. As she knows that the audience is much wealthier than she is; the children runs around with dressed up in velvet and lace, she understands in her subconsiousness that she only plays a role at the concert. She doesn’t belong to the same social class as the rest of the audience and isn’t really wanted there. She however tries to convince herself that playing her role is a positive thing, but her subconsiousness once again comes into play and makes her feel sad, something she tries to ignore. The thing that finaly opens her eyes is the young couple. They clearly show that Miss Brill isn’t wanted at the concert and that the fur, which she really liked and cared for, doesn’t look as good as she has been believing. At the end of the shortstory when she is back in her room, she won’t even understand that the person crying is herself; “But when she put the lid on she tought she heard something crying.” (p. 344). She simply can’t admit that she’s unhappy and want to be someting else. Her wish to be superior also relates to this, she want’s to get away from her current situation and therefore seeks contact with other social classes. She tries to persuade herself that they also could be living in small dark rooms. This leads to her feel of supremacy, which makes her return to reality even tougher. I also got the impression that she is a lonely person without friends, and her only joy in life is to listen to other people’s conversations. The fact that she most likely wont go back to the concerts after her confrontation with reality also means that she wont be able to listen to the conversations, which could be making her even unhappier.
The interesting thing in the shortstory is Miss Brill, and specially her subconsiousness and the way she’s trying to prevent it from making her sad by showing the truth about her life. She ignores the indications that something is wrong with her life which leads to the total destruction of her life.
The theme of “Miss Brill”; a person wanting to be part of another social class and brutaly beeing trown out, seems to be used quite a lot in literature. This suggests that it’s a subject authors find important. I don’t know when “Miss Brill” was written, but there is critique against the social class system in the shortstory. This is most likely the motive the author had to write the shortstory. Miss Brill’s subconsiousness however adds a twist to the story. It’s not only the upper class that hurts Miss Brill, when she wont let out her own feelings she hurts herself.