Katherine Mansfield's Miss Brill

Powerful Essays
There will be many obstacles in life that are too hard for the average human to deal with, but it is how well the obstacles are dealt with that will make a difference. If the obstacles are handled properly, it could have positive effects; however, if they are handled poorly, it could diminish happiness. Katherine Mansfield's short story, "Miss Brill," uses symbol, plot, character, and point of view, to reveal the theme that creating an alternate reality through the lives of other people will not relieve loneliness.

Miss Brill's fur, the symbol in the short story, is contextual. The fur is a contextual symbol because if the fur were placed in another story, it would not symbolize a lonely woman. According to Saralyn Daly, " When she packs away the furpiece…her identification with that object is so complete that the reader fears she weeps and yet is too valiant to acknowledge it" (90). The fur symbolizes Miss Brill's life in the sense that she has put her life in a box, like her fur, and needs a companion to take her out and rub the life back into her. When the sad, little eyes ask "what has been happening to me," those are the thoughts of Miss Brill being brought out through her fur. At the end of the story, in spite of her newly found awareness, Miss Brill denies some of her own emotions when "she thought she heard something crying." The tears are obviously her own, and once again she is feeling emotion through her fur. The connection of passion with the fur is forced into a character Miss Brill acknowledges, and the reader is alert of much more (Berkman 75). The author mentions that Mi...

... middle of paper ...


Daly, Saralyn R. Katherine Mansfield. New York: Twanye Publishers, 1994.

Hanson, Clare. Katherine Mansfield. New York: St. Martins Press 1981.

Kobler, J.F. Katherine Mansfield: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twanyne Publishers, 1990.

Madden, David. "Katherine Mansfield's "Miss Brill." University Review 31 (1964): 89-92.

Mandel, Miriam B. "Reductive Imagery in "Miss Brill." Studies in Short Fiction 26

(1989): 473-77.

Morrow, Patrick D. Katherine Mansfield's Fiction. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State

University Popular Press, 1993.

Nathan, Rhonda B, eds. Critical Essays on K.M. New York: Maxwell Macmillan

International, 1993.

Pilditch, Jan. A Critical Response to Katherine Mansfield. Westport, Greenwood Press,


Thorpe, Peter. "Teaching Miss Brill." College English 23 (1962): 661-63. .
Get Access