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Symbolism In Miss Brill, By Katherine Mansfield Essays

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Miss Brill is a short fiction story written by Katherine Mansfield, which was first published in November 1920 in Athenaeum, an English literary magazine and then in Mansfield’s The Garden Party & Other Stories. The story takes place during a Sunday afternoon as an elderly woman enjoys her weekly visit to a French park. She enjoys watching others and sitting in on their lives, while the band plays in the gazebo. This story, written in the third person omniscient point of view, is told with a stream-of-consciousness narrative, as Miss Brill is revealed through her thoughts about others. Through the use of symbolism and imagery, Mansfield shows the psychological complexity of her character’s experiences of everyday life and the loneliness caused by the alternate reality she created.
Miss Brill, the main character of this story, is in the beginning happy with her life and her situation. The reader can feel her excitement for the day to come in the first line of the story. “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 – Miss Brill was glad that she had decided on her fur” (Mansfield, par. 1). The fur represents everything Miss Brill has and doesn’t have; she treasures it and addresses it as “Dear little thing” or “Little Rogue”. This little piece of garment is the only thing in her life that she cares enough about to share her Sunday ritual with; it is more to her than an accessory. In fact, she is reassured and comforted by the presence of the fur around her neck: “Miss Brill put her hand and touched her fur. […] It was nice to feel it again” (Par. 1). The fur also ironically symbolizes everything she doesn’t have in her life: advent...


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...hing appears to happen in this story, not so far under, Mansfield makes Miss Brill go through different worlds, real and unreal. The author conveys the sadness and pain of such a life by exposing an ironically dull and raw character, a person that everyone could know but would not understand. The beautifully structured story is such “a fine harmony of irony and symbolism” (Thorpe 663) that the complexity of the main character could only be revealed by the use of imagery. As Miss Brill realizes her life was a series of lies and acting, she withdraws herself from the world that has hurt her, a fall without an end.


Works Cited

Mansfield, Katherine. “Miss Brill”, The Garden Party & Other Stories. 1922. Print.

Thorpe, Peter. “Teaching Miss Brill”, College English, Vol.23. 1962. Web. 8 April 2013.


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