A Character Analysis of Katherine Mansfield's Miss Brill


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In "Miss Brill," by Katherine Mansfield, Sundays are a magical day for Miss Brill until she is forced to step out of her daydream and face reality. Every Sunday Miss Brill, a shy English school teacher, goes to the Public Gardens and takes her "special seat" to look forward to listening to the conversations of others.. This lonely older woman has become quite the expert on eavesdropping. Miss Brill starts to view everything she observes on Sundays in the form of a beautifully choreographed theatrical performance in which everything, herself included, plays a role. This is a place where she feels as though she"belongs." One Sunday her fantasy is shattered by the inconsiderate and harsh remarks of a young couple. Mansfield shows us how hurtful the truth can be to people who haven't realized or accepted the reality in which they live.

Miss Brill views herself as a needed part of something spectacular on Sundays. She sits on the park bench wearing the fur that she is so fond of and in her mind nothing could be grander than "the play" at the garden. When thinking of things, such as the band that plays regularly in the park, Miss Brill compares them to family: "It was like some one playing with only the family to listen...." Everything and everyone is included in this performance she loves so dearly. Even the young couple who take a seat on the bench with her are pictured to be the "hero and heroine" of her magical fairy tale. This is her escape from the life she has; her escape from the truth.

In reality, Miss Brill is a part of nothing. She sits alone on a bench with her ratty old fur and watches the world pass before her. She sees other people sitting on benches Sunday after Sunday and thinks of them as "funny...odd, silent, nearly all old...as though they'd just come from dark little rooms." Rather than see herself as one of them, she creates a fantasy world to escape facing the truth. Even in this seemingly perfect production, within Miss Brills mind, Mansfield shows us that there is the possibility of evil. Along come the "hero and heroine" of Miss Brills imagination and the nasty truth cuts like a knife. The young couple begin to ridicule and make fun of the "stupid, old, lonely lady that no body wants," and in that instant her dream is demolished and little world crumbles.

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Miss Brill solemnly walks home, passing up things that she used to look forward to. She sits on her bed, puts the fur back in its box, and thinks she hears something crying. The fur is symbolic of something old and lonely that has lost its beauty over the years. The fur is not crying...Miss Brill is. The fantasy is over and the truth must now sink in.


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