Katherine Mansfield

Miss Brill

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Miss Brill Analysis

Mansfield’s opening scene is one of great natural beauty and enjoyment, expressed through Miss Brill’s description of the park and the weather, but there is an undercurrent of threat, exemplified by the chill in the air. As she sits and listens to the band, Miss Brill feels a little sadness, which tempers her joy at the beautiful day and her enjoyment of the music and people-watching in the park.

Miss Brill cheerfully attempts to overcome the feeling of sadness, to live in the moment and fully enjoy the day, yet clues to her lonely and bare existence creep into the narrative at several points. For example, Miss Brill exposes the emptiness of her own life when she expends so much emotion on the English woman she remembers discussing spectacles with her husband. Why should Miss Brill care whether the woman gets spectacles or not, or whether she appreciates her kind and patient husband? Her own life must be very empty for her to be so preoccupied with the lives of strangers.

This preoccupation with the intimate lives of the strangers surrounding her continues, as Miss Brill observes the woman in the ermine toque talking with the man in gray. The reader cannot help but compare the woman in the ermine toque with Miss Brill. Both are older women wearing faded furs; both are pretending that their lives are gayer and brighter than they are. The rejection of the woman in the ermine toque upsets Miss Brill; she calls the man “The Brute” (2). This rejection foreshadows Miss Brill’s own rejection later in the story.

Despite these small shadows on her day, Miss Brill continues her reverie, imagining herself as part of the play being staged before her. Through the analogy of the play, she feels connected to the people in the park and feels that she has an important role in the ongoing drama. In fact, she imagines herself as an actress, and thinks about telling her invalid client that she has been an actress for a long time. She allows herself to go even further, imagining all of the people…

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