As humans, we base our lives around social interaction. We learn to live through various means of socialization from the time we are born. Without this socialization and interaction among each other, we can become very disillusioned and confused about society. One would tend to isolate ourselves; exiled in this place we call the world. In Katherine Mansfield’s short story “Miss Brill,” one such person, herself a kind of outcast of society, creates a fantasy world in which she is at the center. “Miss Brill” is the story of a woman battling with loneliness.
She partakes in a ritual in which every Sunday she would spend the entire afternoon at the local park eavesdropping and observing the people around her. In her mind everyone around her is apart of her unadorned existence when in fact Miss Brill only sits alone seemingly frantically in search of companionship. She scorns anything and anyone that may cause her to realize the truth about her pathetic existence. The story conveys a message, expressed through the character of Miss Brill, that those who do not communicate with others but idealize them, and those who do not act in the real world lose touch with reality.
The character Miss Brill can be described a dreamer. The story starts, as she gets ready for her Sunday ritual in which she describes fur stole as a friend or companion instead of an object. Miss Brill lacks companionship that she desperately desires so in turn creates her own. When she returns home from her weekly outing she stops and gets what she calls her weekly treat of a piece of honey cake. She was even more excited with her treat if found an almond inside it. These were all things to make her humdrum life seem more important and exciting that it really was.
This defines Miss Brill as an idealist, making everyone and everything around her seem alive and interesting. It seems like she is loosing a sense of reality and her idea of what is important in life is somewhat warped. Miss Brill carefully observed every little detail of the things happening around her showing the extent that she is loosing her grasp of reality. She makes notes of everything from the clothes to the actions. She takes pride in her ability to eavesdrop. Miss Brill omits herself from the rest people.
Even the elderly people around her, Miss Brill quickly distances herself from them as thought she was different from them. Miss Brill associates and relates herself to the younger and attractive people, the people in which society is the most acceptable. She watches everyone around her as if she were viewing a play. She seems to refuse to deal with the idea that she is a common woman, yet alone a woman of her age. She seems to do this by turning everything ordinary into her fantasy. It’s as if she doesn’t want to accept her own.
She does not want to be old or alone and as she comes closer to reality, she seems to be unconscious about it. Miss Brill’s character is described as one of a tortured soul and she chooses to escape than to deal with her life. It’s as if she has a need to have self-gratification through her make believe companionship. Miss Brill encounters a young couple who say she is a stupid old thing; she has to face the harsh reality. The idea she so desperately tries to hide from thrown in her face.
Miss Brill is hurt from the revelation that she decides to sway from her usual trip to the bakery and goes home. At home, she has to deal with her reality because there is nothing and no one she could use to dramatize her life. Miss Brill has to accept the idea that she is no more to the world than anyone else she encounters in the park. She is the person, who she never wanted to be and all her attempts to save her false image were now void. When faced with life altering events that change our existence, as humans we have the instinct to defend ourselves.
Miss Brill’s character illustrated this human trait. Miss Brill made no effort to communicate with others but instead observed them through her goggled imagination. She took no effort to accept what and whom she really is, but believed she was something different. Her outlook on life changed when the realities of the world were pointed out, setting her out on a path to disappointment. Her ideals and beliefs made her naive about the world and eventually causing her to be hurt making her realizes the world is not at all a play.