Katherine Mansfield

Miss Brill

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Miss Brill Major Character Analysis

Miss Brill

Optimistic, observant, and sensitive, Miss Brill lives one life in her head and another life in reality. Because of the loneliness and lack of friends that characterize her real life, she develops a rich internal life, substituting real relationships with those she eavesdrops on during her Sundays in the park, and even personifying her fox fur necklet as a “rogue” companion. Yet Miss Brill’s focus on the beauty around her, her knowledge and awareness of her own feelings, and her detailed observations of others indicate that she is not completely delusional.

Miss Brill chooses to see her life in hopeful terms and to make the most of her life, despite her poverty and loneliness. Though she lives in a pleasant dream-world of her own making, her dream-world consists of attempts to connect with others and to see herself as making a positive contribution to society. In reality, she might be considered a poor, lonely, useless, old lady, but her attempts to see herself as worthy, as someone with a contribution to make in the world, seems brave, not insane.

The world, on the other hand, seems cruel, as personified by the youthful lovers who maliciously insult Miss Brill, taking her humanity from her and stripping her of dignity and value. Her emotional devastation is as much a result of the realization of the cruelty in the world as it is a realization of her true situation. Miss Brill knows her true situation; she just chooses to ignore it until it is forced upon her. Much of the pathos and sympathy generated by Miss Brill involves the reader’s acknowledgement that all human beings share Miss Brill’s need for connection and belonging.

Young Man 

One of the pair of lovers who sit down next to Miss Brill is a young man and Miss Brill immediately casts him in the role of hero in her internal drama. However, he is a rude and heedless person, oblivious to the feelings of others. Angry with his sweetheart because she will not say she loves him, he takes his anger out on Miss Brill. Well-dressed and well-off, in…

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