Why do people always want to belong or to feel as they are a part of something? Is it because they are lonely? Katherine Mansfield’s “Miss Brill” is a story about how she is expressed as a lonely, critical, and fragile elderly woman. As a round character, “Miss Brill” is forced to face a disturbing reality through her routine events. Mansfield describes Miss Brill as an elderly woman in denial from old age and her lack of human interactions. Miss Brill sits in her chair at the seaside park and watches and listens in on other people’s lives, as she watches her life pass her by. Mansfield points out that she finds her life empty, while finding excitement in the drama of other people’s lives. “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield is effective in its use of symbolism, imagery, and her thoughts.
An effective way of characterization is the use of symbolism in this story. Take for instance her name, “Miss Brill” which means a fish of some sort. This means that she is a wonderer, just like a fish. This gives you an idea of what the story entails such as her sitting in on people and eavesdropping on their conversations. The story starts out as Miss Brill describing the sensation of her fur coat upon her skin and how it made her feel. The way the author describes the fur, “She had taken it out of its box that afternoon, shaken out the moth-powder, given it a good brush, and rubbed the life back into the dim little eyes…” “What has been happening to me?” said the sad little eyes.
Mansfield uses Miss Brill’s thoughts to be endorsed into the fur when really it focuses on how Miss Brill is an old, lonely, and fragile woman. To explain this in further detail, the fur is a symbol of how dead “Miss Brill” feels inside, especially the way the Mansfield describes the fur, “… some black composition, wasn’t at all firm. It must have had a knock, somehow. Never Mind- a little dab of black sealing-wax when the time came…taken it off and laid it on her lap and stroked it… .” Miss Brill has something in common with the fur such as emptiness and able to identify with it throughout the story.
The author also uses imagery in the story “Miss Brill” by describing her world as a fantasy that Miss Brill feels that she can create by escaping her own reality. Miss Brill gives a hint how the story will end by describing the setting in a not so pleasant way by using these words, “Although it was so brilliantly fine—the blue sky with gold and great spots of light like wine splashed over the Jardins Publiques.” Miss Brill starts to observe everything she sees or hears on Sunday in the form of being in a play in which everything, herself included, has a part in it too. She feels a sense of belonging at this park; she even describes the band as part of her family, “It was like someone playing with only the family to listen….” Miss Brill even describes the old people sitting at the park as, “… odd, silent, nearly all old, and… just come from dark little rooms or even—even cupboards!” This is exactly the way she feels inside; by not even noticing she is actually illustrating herself. Mansfield uses detailed words to illustrate each of the characters in Miss Brill’s fantasized world to make the reader feel like they are there.
Throughout the story the author is effective in using Miss Brill’s thoughts in everything she sees or hears. The reader can either relate to Miss Brill or they cannot; the way they relate is by having common thoughts about the same issues. When Miss Brill comes to terms of how she really feels inside, the author shows us that inside Miss Brill’s mind there is the possibility of inserting evil by using a couple in love. Miss Brill pictures this couple as “the hero and heroine” in her fantasy world. The young couple sits by her and she is prepared to listen to their conversation. They begin to talk badly about her and ask why she comes here if nobody wants her. Her fantasy world comes to an end and her imagination crumbles. Miss Brill walks home, even passing up the bakery that she used to look forward to having her weekly honey cake.
She sits on her bed, puts the fur back in its box, and thinks she hears something crying; in all reality it is her crying because she has realized she is alone and dead inside. By incorporating all of Miss Brill’s thoughts into detail about each thing she sees, feels, or hears such as feeling like an actress and a critique of her own play; realizing that she would come down to truth that she was really letting her real world pass her by. In conclusion, the author that wrote the story “Miss Brill” used a lot of symbolism by using concrete images to illustrate what she meant. She also incorporated a lot of Miss Brill’s thoughts so the reader could really see how she felt inside and out. The author gave us detailed descriptions of everything from the people, props, and setting to make the reader feel the happiness or pain that Miss Brill felt. Lastly, the author makes the reader think that everything is okay with the old lady, Miss Brill but only to lead to her own illustration of how she really felt emptiness inside herself at the end of the story.