Miss Brill, by Katherine Mansfield

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Question 1 “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield tells a story of a lonely, English lady in France. Miss Brill is a quiet person who believes herself to be important. The whole afternoon at the gardens, Miss Brill does not converse with anyone, nor does anyone show any inclination to talk with her. She merely watches others and listens to their conversations. This provides her with a sense of companionship; she feels as if she is a part of other people’s lives. Miss Brill is also slightly self-conceited. She believes that she is so important that people would notice if she ever missed a Sunday at the park. It does not occur to her that other people may not want her to be there. Miss Brill is very observant of what happens around her. However, she is not in tune with her own self. She has a disillusioned view of herself. She does not admit her feelings of dejection at the end. She seems not even to notice her sorrow. Miss Brill is concerned merely with the external events, and not with internal emotions. Furthermore, Miss Brill is proud. She has been very open about her thoughts. However, after the comments from the young lovers, her thoughts are silenced. She is too proud to admit her sorrow and dejection; she haughtily refuses to acknowledge that she is not important. Question 2 Miss Brill is English. She conducts a class of “English pupils” (100). She teaches English to students in France. The story is set in France, in the Jardins Publiques. The setting is important because it further illustrates how Miss Brill is out of place in her society. She is a foreigner in a strange land. Question 3 Miss Brill is advanced in years. She has been coming weekly to the gardens for “‘a long time’” (100). Furthermore, the two young lovers describe her as an “‘an old thing”’ (100). Miss Brill is without any relatives or close friends. She has no acquaintances to converse with. Therefore, she treats her fur as if it were a pet. Her fur is a “dear little thing” (98) with eyes and a tail. She sometimes feels like “stroking” it (98). Miss Brill’s loneliness causes her to listen in on conversations. This is her only means of achieving a sense of companionship. She feels that for a moment she is “sitting in other people’s lives just for a minute” (98). Aside from that, she is part of no one’s life.
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