“The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe.” ― Voltaire
The short story “Miss Brill” is misleading and illusory. The author, Katherine Mansfield, uses third person limited to take readers along into Miss Brill, the protagonist’s, delusions. The story is set in the 1920’s France, on a nice Sunday afternoon. The tone starts out airy with anticipation as Miss. Brill gears up in her best fur for a day at the “Jardine Publiques”, as Mansfield calls it. Toward the end of the story, the façade brought on by Miss. Brills need to hide from her intolerable reality, breaks and it becomes clear how lonely and wrong Miss. Brill’s reality actually is. The three central themes that will be argued in this paper are loneliness, feelings of rejection and insignificance, and the inadvertent attempts to experience life through elusions.
Mansfield never outright expresses Miss. Brill’s deep sense of loneliness, she makes the reader work to understand the character’s hidden emotions. As Marian Mandel indicates in her analysis of “Miss Brill” in Studies in Short Fiction, “[w]whatever Miss Brill sees, she reduces to the parameters of her own contorted world” (475). Basically, because third person limited is used and all the descriptions are coming from Miss Brill herself. Careful reading is needed to catch what is real and what is just Miss Brill projecting her version of reality onto the reader. The fact that Miss. Brill is never directly addressed by none of the many people she came across on her day out is suspicious on its own. Secondly, she looks forwa...
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...ting to the short story, but that doesn’t change the fact that Mansfield leaves the story in such a pitiful situation.
In conclusion, Mansfield has a subtle way of dragging readers into “Miss Brill” expecting a nice short story, but instead receiving an emotionally distressing tale about a lone middle-aged spinster. Miss Brill is unable to cope with here reality so in turn creates one where she is, not the center of attention, but also not a minor role. Being the protagonist it would be assumed that Miss Brill would have a strong personality and not succumb to such mundane things as loneliness. However, the fact that Miss Brill is so mundane adds to the thematic buildup of the story. These themes include loneliness, rejection and isolation, and delusions created by oneself. Basically, the major fears of a female living alone away from family, and having no friends.
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