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Miss Brill Essay

In Katherine Mansfield’s short story “Miss Brill,” Mansfield describes Miss Brill as a woman who is in deep denial of her situation. Miss Brill is an elderly woman who is not aware of the distress in her life; because she doesn’t want to face the reality of getting old. Miss Brill shows the personality of a woman who is vain, detached, and over sensitive as she goes through her specific Sunday in the park wearing her favorite “Dear little thing” fur (65). Because Miss Brill struggles to admit the reality of getting old, her vanity makes her thinks she’s a special person and an actress in the play.

Miss Brill believes she has a “special seat” (65) in Jardin’s Publiques the park where she sits every time. This particular Sunday afternoon is quite special for Miss Brill, because she has taken out her favourite fur from the box. Her “little rogue” (65) is like a pet “biting its tail just by her left ear” (65), and she imagines it as her companion. As Miss Brill goes through her day on watching and listening other people in the park she thought, “She had become really quite expert . . . t listening though she didn’t listen, at sitting in other people’s lives just for a minute while they talked round her” (65). She fantasizes about reading a newspaper to an invalid gentleman snoring besides her, pretending to be on stage and believing she was a good actress. “An actress —are ye? ” (67) thought Miss Brill, which again shows her vanity. Although Miss Brill is a teacher and is around people in the park every Sunday, her detachment is revealed by her not making any actual contact with her patrons.

She is always distant, reserved and aloof. The only companion she has is her fur, she “laid it on her lap and stroked it” (65). When the band started to play again, she thought the music “was warm, sunny, yet there was just a faint chill . . . , what was it? . . . , not sadness—a something that made you want to sing? ”(67). Miss Brill rejects the feelings of pain and loneliness detaching herself from being hurt.

As Miss Brill continues her moment of delusion, her over sensitivity is apparent when a boy and a girl suddenly come to sit ext to her, she is looking forward listening to their conversation as she thought of them as a “hero and a heroine,” (68) but to her dismay, she hears them talking about her, calling her “that stupid old thing” (68), and making fun of her favourite fur: “It’s her fu-fur . . . It’s exactly like a fried whiting” (68). Miss Brill is hurt and on her way home, she skips going to the bakery to buy her favourite treat. Instead she goes straight home, puts her fur in the box and goes into her dark, cupboard-like room. While sitting there for a long time “she heard something crying,” (68).

Miss Brill is the one crying, yet she doesn’t want to face the reality of getting old and the resemblance she has with her old fur. After every denial and rejection of her pain and loneliness, Miss Brill’s reality comes in a harsh way when she hears the young couple making fun of her. Finally, she allows herself to feel the pain, hurt, and loneliness for a moment. Miss Brill’s vanity, detachment, and over sensitivity are her weapons to hide her emotional struggle of accepting the reality of becoming a spinster.


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