Miss Brill Essay Research Paper The Third

Miss Brill Essay, Research Paper

The Third Person-Point of View as used by Katherine Mansfield in “Miss Brill”

Katherine Mansfield s use of the third person, limited omniscient point of view

in “Miss Brill” has the effect of letting the reader see the contrast between Miss

Brill s idea of her role in life and the reality of the small part she truly plays in

world around her. In one short Sunday afternoon, the main character s view of

herself changes dramatically different changes. Until the end, the reader does not

realize the view is like a mirror at a carnival, clear on the outside edges and

distorted in the center. Mansfield s use of the story s point of view causes her

readers to look inside themselves to see if they also view life as Miss Brill does:

as they wish it to be, not as it is. In the beginning, Miss Brill sees herself as an

observer of life, somehow separate, but yet an integral part of life. From the

first sentence, “Although it was so brilliantly fine–the blue sky powdered with

gold and great spots of light like white wine splashed over the Jardins

Publiques”(49), the reader is made aware of her wonderfully vivid imagination.

She seems to notice everything. In addition, she paints it in such words that we

see it also. As readers, we want to believe that Miss Brill really has a deep

understanding of the world around her. Yet Miss Brill wishes to be a part of the

world and not apart from it, so we see her view shift to include herself. Now we

begin to wonder about her grasp on reality. She believes that she is an “actress”,

that she and everyone else has a specific part to play on this “stage” of life within

the park. Her belief in her own importance in this play is displayed in her

statement, “No doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn t been there; she

was a part of the performance after all.”(51) This sentence begins the transition

of the reader s view of Miss Brill. There is a touch of foreshadowing in her

imagined statement to the old man that she reads to; “Yes, I have been an actress

for a long time.”(52) This statement causes the reader to wonder how much of

what came before was real and how much was fantasy. Early in the story Miss

Brill lets us know that she feels she is different from the other regulars in the

park when she thinks of them: “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!”(51) In the final paragraph, Miss Brill sees

herself going “into the little dark room her room like a cupboard”(52) and this

is when she realizes that she is no different than the other old people in the

gardens. The catalyst for this transition comes from the overheard conversation

between the young couple who sits on her bench. When the young girl rebukes

his advances and the boy asks, “But why? Because of that stupid old thing at the

end there?” ” Why does she come here at all who wants her? Why doesn t she

keep her silly old mug at home?” These statements shatter her fantasy and her

fears are realized as she sees herself as others do. Katherine Mansfield has

brought her readers through the maze of Miss Brill s imagination. In the end,

one has to have a great deal of sympathy and maybe even some empathy for Miss

Brill. The reader is saddened to think that Miss Brill had only her fantasy to live

in and now she has lost even that small comfort. She is obviously a very

imaginative and intelligent woman. Now that the fantasy is shattered, what joy

can remain in her life? Will she remain one of those others that just sit on the

benches and watch the world pass them by? Will Miss Brill s revelation be

enough to motivate her to change or is it to late? The questions come to the

readers, “Am I one of those others who just sit and watch the world go by? And

if so, is it too late for me to change?” Katherine Mansfield s artful use of the

third person, limited omniscient point of view allowed Mansfield to keep hidden

Miss Brill s fears and the reality of her life. If the reader had been given the

thoughts of any of the other characters, the fantasy would have been destroyed in

the beginning of the story, ruining any effective use of foreshadowing. Even

Miss Brill s thoughts in the first person point of view would have given away her

fears and made the story totally different.


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