Miss Brill's Fragile Fantasy

A Critical Essay of Katherine Mansfield's Short Story

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After you have finished reading Miss Brill , by Katherine Mansfield, compare your response to the short story with the analysis offered in this sample critical essay . Next, compare "Miss Brill's Fragile Fantasy" with another paper on the same topic, "Poor, Pitiful Miss Brill."

Sharing Her Perceptions

In "Miss Brill," Katherine Mansfield introduces readers to an uncommunicative and apparently simple-minded woman who eavesdrops on strangers, who imagines herself to be an actress in an absurd musical, and whose dearest friend in life appears to be a shabby fur stole. And yet we are encouraged neither to laugh at Miss Brill nor to dismiss her as a grotesque madwoman. Through Mansfield's skillful handling of point of view, characterization, and plot development , Miss Brill comes across as a convincing character who evokes our sympathy.

By telling the story from the third-person limited omniscient point of view , Mansfield allows us both to share Miss Brill's perceptions and to recognize that those perceptions are highly romanticized. This dramatic irony is essential to our understanding of her character. Miss Brill's view of the world on this Sunday afternoon in early autumn is a delightful one, and we are invited to share in her pleasure: the day "so brilliantly fine," the children "swooping and laughing," the band sounding "louder and gayer" than on previous Sundays. And yet, because the point of view is the third person (that is, told from the outside), we're encouraged to look at Miss Brill herself as well as share her perceptions. What we see is a lonely woman sitting on a park bench. This dual perspective encourages us to view Miss Brill as someone who has resorted to fantasy (i.e., her romanticized perceptions) rather than self-pity (our view of her as a lonely person).

Other "Performers" in the Story

Miss Brill reveals herself to us through her perceptions of the other people in the park--the other players in the "company." Since she doesn't really know anyone, she characterizes these people by the clothes they wear (for example, "a fine old man in a velvet coat," an Englishman "wearing a dreadful Panama hat," "little boys with big white silk bows under their chins"), observing these costumes with the careful eye of a wardrobe mistress. They are performing for her benefit, she thinks, even though to us it appears that they (like the band which "didn't care how it played if there weren't any strangers present") are oblivious to her existence. Some of these characters are not very appealing: the silent couple beside her on the bench, the vain woman who chatters about the spectacles she should be wearing, the "beautiful" woman who throws away a bunch of violets "as if they'd been poisoned," and the four girls who nearly knock over an old man (this last incident foreshadowing her own encounter with careless youths at the end of the story). Miss Brill is annoyed by some of these people, sympathetic toward others, but she reacts to them all as if they were characters on stage. Miss Brill appears to be too innocent and isolated from life to even comprehend human nastiness. But is she really so childlike, or is she, in fact, a kind of actress?

An Unconcious Link

There is one character whom Miss Brill appears to identify with--the woman wearing "the ermine toque she'd bought when her hair was yellow." The description of the "shabby ermine" and the woman's hand as a "tiny yellowish paw" suggests that Miss Brill is making an unconscious link with herself. (Miss Brill would never use the word "shabby" to describe her own fur, though we know that it is.) The "gentleman in gray" is very rude to the woman: he blows smoke into her face and abandons her. Now, like Miss Brill herself, the "ermine toque" is alone. But to Miss Brill, this is all just a stage performance (with the band playing music that suits the scene), and the true nature of this curious encounter is never made clear to the reader. Could the woman be a prostitute? Possibly, but Miss Brill would never consider this. She has identified with the woman (perhaps because she herself knows what it's like to be snubbed) in the same way that playgoers identify with certain stage characters. Could the woman herself be playing a game? "The ermine toque turned, raised her hand as though she'd seen someone else, much nicer, just over there, and pattered away." The woman's humiliation in this episode anticipates Miss Brill's humiliation at the end of the story, but here the scene ends happily. We see that Miss Brill is living vicariously, not so much through the lives of others, but through their performances as Miss Brill interprets them.

Ironically, it is with her own kind, the old people on the benches, that Miss Brill refuses to identify:

"They were odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they'd just come from dark little rooms or even--even cupboards!"

But later in the story, as Miss Brill's enthusiasm builds, we're offered an important insight into her character:

"And then she too, she too, and the others on the benches--they would come in with a kind of accompaniment--something low, that scarcely rose or fell, something so beautiful--moving."

Almost despite herself, it seems, she does identify with these marginal figures--these minor characters.

A More Complex Character

We suspect that Miss Brill may not be as simple-minded as she first appears. There are hints in the story that self-awareness (not to mention self-pity) is something Miss Brill avoids, not something of which she is incapable. In the first paragraph, she describes a feeling as "light and sad"; then she corrects this: "no, not sad exactly--something gentle seemed to move in her bosom." And later in the afternoon, she again calls up this feeling of sadness, only to deny it, as she describes the music played by the band: "And what they played warm, sunny, yet there was just a faint chill--a something, what was it--not sadness--no, not sadness--a something that made you want to sing." Mansfield suggests that sadness is just below the surface, something Miss Brill has suppressed. Similarly, Miss Brill's "queer, shy feeling" when she tells her pupils how she spends her Sunday afternoons suggests a partial awareness, at least, that this is an admission of loneliness.

Miss Brill appears to resist sadness by giving life to what she sees and hears the brilliant colors noted throughout the story (contrasted to the "little dark room" she returns to at the end), her sensitive reactions to the music, her delight in small details. By refusing to accept the role of a lonely woman, she  is  an actress. More importantly, she is a dramatist, actively countering sadness and self-pity, and this evokes our sympathy, even our admiration. A chief reason that we feel such pity for Miss Brill at the end of the story is the sharp contrast with the liveliness and beauty  she  gave to that ordinary scene in the park. Are the other characters without illusions? Are they in any way better than Miss Brill?

Sympathizing With Miss Brill

Finally, it's the artful construction of the  plot  that leaves us feeling sympathetic toward Miss Brill. We are made to share her increasing excitement as she imagines that she is not only an observer but also a participant. No, we don't believe that the whole company will suddenly start singing and dancing, but we may feel that Miss Brill is on the verge of a more genuine kind of self-acceptance: her role in life is a minor one, but she has a role all the same. Our perspective of the scene is different from Miss Brill's, but her enthusiasm is contagious and we are led to expect something momentous when the two-star players appear. The letdown is terrible. These giggling, thoughtless adolescents ( themselves  putting on an act for each other) have insulted her fur--the emblem of her identity. So Miss Brill has no role to play after all. In Mansfield's carefully controlled and understated conclusion, Miss Brill packs  herself  away in her "little, dark room." We sympathize with her not because "the truth hurts," but because she has been denied the simple truth that she does, indeed, have a role to play in life.

Miss Brill is an actor, as are the other people in the park, as we all are in social situations. And we sympathize with her at the end of the story not because she is a pitiful, curious object but because she has been laughed off the stage, and that is a fear we all have. Mansfield has managed not so much to touch our hearts in any gushing, sentimental way, but to touch our fears.

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“Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield: A Critical Analysis

“Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield is an acclaimed short story first published in 1920 in The Athenaeum, a British literary magazine.

"Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield: A Critical Analysis

Introduction: “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield

Table of Contents

“Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield is an acclaimed short story first published in 1920 in The Athenaeum , a British literary magazine. Later included in Mansfield’s collection of stories, The Garden Party and Other Stories, the narrative focuses on the life of Miss Brill, an elderly English teacher residing in France who spends her Sundays observing people in a public park and imagining their lives. The story’s subtle yet powerful portrayal of loneliness and isolation has garnered widespread acclaim, attesting to its literary merit. Notably, due to its timeless significance in the realm of literary discourse, “Miss Brill” has been anthologized extensively and is still scrutinized in literature courses worldwide.

Main Events in “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield

  • Miss Brill, an elderly English teacher, spends her Sundays observing people in a public park and creating stories about their lives.
  • She enjoys wearing her fur coat and considering it as a companion, imagining it as a person with a voice.
  • She encounters a young couple who mock her, causing her to feel rejected and isolated.
  • Miss Brill returns home and puts her fur coat away, imagining it as dead and lifeless.
  • She is then struck with the realization of her own insignificance and the harsh reality of her solitary existence.
  • The story concludes with Miss Brill questioning her own role in the world and feeling an overwhelming sense of despair.
  • The narrative is presented in a stream-of-consciousness style, allowing readers to see Miss Brill’s inner thoughts and feelings.
  • Mansfield uses vivid descriptions and sensory details to create a sense of the park’s atmosphere and Miss Brill’s emotional state.
  • The use of symbolism, particularly with the fur coat, highlights the theme of illusion versus reality.
  • The story’s powerful ending leaves readers with a sense of empathy for Miss Brill’s loneliness and isolation.

Literary Devices in “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield

Characterization in “miss brill” by katherine mansfield, major character.

  • Miss Brill: The protagonist of the story, Miss Brill is a lonely, aging woman who finds solace and a sense of purpose in her weekly visits to the park. Key aspects of her characterization:
  • Delusional Optimism: Miss Brill constructs a romanticized view of her own life and place in the world. She imagines herself as an “actress” participating in the play of the park (“It was exactly like a play.”). This delusion shields her from the harsh reality of her isolation.
  • Vicarious Living: Instead of actively participating in life, Miss Brill draws meaning from observing others. She eavesdrops on conversations and invents elaborate stories about those she sees (“No doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn’t been there”).
  • Sensitivity and Longing: Miss Brill is deeply affected by her surroundings and the emotions she perceives in others. The band’s music evokes powerful feelings within her, and she yearns for a sense of connection and belonging.
  • Fragile Self-Image: Her cherished fur stole serves as a symbol of her attempt to cling to past vibrancy and a sense of worth (“What has been happening to me?” said the sad little eyes.”). The story’s cruel climax reveals the tenuous nature of her self-perception.

Minor Characters

  • The Ermine Toque Woman: An older woman who also frequents the park. Her faded beauty and loneliness mirror aspects of Miss Brill’s own life and foreshadow her potential future. Miss Brill finds a fleeting connection with this woman, only to be disappointed when the woman departs without acknowledgment.
  • The Old Couple: Regulars at Miss Brill’s “special” bench, they are described as statue-like and unresponsive. They may represent a further step in the decline Miss Brill fears, a life devoid of interaction.
  • The Young Couple: This pair catalyzes the story’s climax with their cruel remarks about Miss Brill. Their casual dismissal of her shatters Miss Brill’s illusions (“Why doesn’t she keep her silly old mug at home?”). They represent the harsh judgment of youth and the uncaring reality of the world.
  • The Old Invalid Gentleman: Miss Brill reads the newspaper to this gentleman, finding validation in imagining him as a captivated audience for her ‘performance’. He unwittingly reinforces her self-constructed narrative.

Katherine Mansfield’s Technique

Mansfield masterfully reveals character through indirect methods:

  • Limited Third-Person perspective: We experience the story entirely through Miss Brill’s eyes. This allows for subtle insights into her worldview but also highlights the potential gaps between her perceptions and external reality.
  • Dialogue: Brief snatches of overheard dialogue paint portraits of other park-goers and starkly reveal how Miss Brill is viewed by some.
  • Symbolism: Objects like the fur stole add depth and pathos to the portrayal of Miss Brill.

Major Themes in “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield

Loneliness and isolation:.

  • Miss Brill’s solitary existence is underscored by her meticulous weekly ritual, a substitute for genuine connection.
  • Her attempts to find belonging in the park observations are ultimately unsuccessful, culminating in the devastating encounter with the young couple.
  • The story’s final image, where she imagines the fur crying, underscores a profound sense of loneliness and the unfulfilled need for connection.

Illusion vs. Reality:

  • Miss Brill constructs an elaborate fantasy where she is a significant observer and even a participant in the ‘performance’ of the park. (“It was exactly like a play”)
  • She reimagines her act of reading to the invalid gentleman as a theatrical role, further solidifying this illusion.
  • This carefully constructed world is brutally shattered by the young couples’ comments, exposing the harsh reality of her isolation and how she is perceived by others.

The Cruelty of Judgment:

  • The seemingly insignificant remarks made by the young couple have a devastating impact on Miss Brill. (“Why doesn’t she keep her silly old mug at home?”)
  • Their remarks expose the casual unkindness that can exist in the world and highlights the vulnerability of those who are isolated or seen as different.

Aging and the Loss of Significance:

  • Miss Brill’s cherished fur stole represents her clinging to a past image of herself, a time when she may have held more social value.
  • The ermine toque woman, with her faded beauty, acts as a potential mirror of Miss Brill’s future, hinting at a further decline in vibrancy and social standing.
  • The focus on elderly park-goers with their limited interactions suggests a society that diminishes the significance of its aging members.

Writing Style in “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield

Introspective Focus:

  • ·  Third-person limited perspective tightly centered on Miss Brill’s thoughts and observations. (“She had taken it out of its box that afternoon…”)
  • We experience the world of the park filtered through her perceptions and emotions.

Vivid Imagery and Symbolism:

  • Rich sensory details: “blue sky powdered with gold”, the feel of the fur, the smell of moth powder.
  • Symbolic objects: The fur stole represents Miss Brill’s fading vibrancy and yearning for connection.

Stream-of-Consciousness Narrative:

  • Fluid movement between Miss Brill’s external observations and her internal thoughts. (“There were a number of people out this afternoon, far more than last Sunday…”)
  • This creates a sense of immediacy and intimacy with the character’s experiences.

Descriptive and Suggestive Language:

  • Evocative word choices that paint a picture in the reader’s mind (“…great spots of light like white wine splashed…”).
  • Suggestive phrasing that implies deeper emotions and unspoken thoughts beneath the surface.

Subtle Irony and Ambiguity:

  • Contrast between Miss Brill’s romanticized self-perception and the reality of how others view her. (“No doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn’t been there…”)
  • Open-ended elements leave room for reader interpretation, such as the exact nature of Miss Brill’s past.

Contrast: Outer World vs. Inner Experience

  • Miss Brill’s internal monologues are set against the backdrop of the bustling park.
  • This juxtaposition highlights her detachment and her attempts to construct a personal world of meaning.

Complex Sentences & Figurative Language:

  • Mansfield’s sentences are often nuanced, with careful use of similes, metaphors, and personification. (“What has been happening to me?” said the sad little eyes.”)
  • This demands attentive reading and encourages analysis of deeper nuances of meaning.

Literary Theories and Interpretation of “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield

Questions and thesis statements about “miss brill” by katherine mansfield.

  • How does Katherine Mansfield use the literary device of symbolism in “Miss Brill” to convey the theme of loneliness and isolation?
  • Thesis statement: Through the use of various symbols such as the fur, the music, and the Sunday afternoon, Mansfield effectively conveys the theme of loneliness and isolation in “Miss Brill”.
  • In what ways does Mansfield use the literary device of irony in “Miss Brill” to highlight the protagonist’s illusions and delusions?
  • Thesis statement: By using various instances of irony such as the contrast between Miss Brill’s perceptions and the reality of her situation, Mansfield highlights the protagonist’s illusions and delusions and ultimately underscores the theme of the story.
  • How does the narrative technique of focalization contribute to the reader’s understanding of the protagonist’s character in “Miss Brill”?
  • Thesis statement: The narrative technique of focalization, which allows the reader to view the story through the protagonist’s perspective, provides valuable insights into Miss Brill’s character and ultimately enhances the reader’s understanding of the story.
  • How does Mansfield use the literary device of foreshadowing in “Miss Brill” to create a sense of anticipation and unease in the reader?
  • Thesis statement: Through various instances of foreshadowing such as the mention of “changing seasons” and the “erased numbers” in the magazine, Mansfield creates a sense of anticipation and unease in the reader that underscores the overall theme of the story.
  • In what ways does Mansfield use the literary device of characterization to reveal the complexity of the protagonist’s emotions in “Miss Brill”?
  • Thesis statement: Through various techniques of characterization such as dialogue, action, and thought, Mansfield reveals the complexity of Miss Brill’s emotions and ultimately underscores the theme of the story.

Short Question-Answer about “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield

  • How does Katherine Mansfield use the literary device of point of view in “Miss Brill” to convey the theme of loneliness?
  • In “Miss Brill,” Katherine Mansfield employs the limited omniscient point of view to convey the theme of loneliness. The reader is privy to Miss Brill’s innermost thoughts and emotions, which reveal her deep-seated loneliness. Through the use of point of view, Mansfield places the reader in Miss Brill’s shoes, allowing them to experience the same sense of isolation that she does. By using this technique, Mansfield creates a powerful connection between the reader and Miss Brill, making the theme of loneliness all the more palpable.
  • How does the use of symbolism in “Miss Brill” contribute to the theme of illusion vs. reality?
  • Katherine Mansfield uses symbolism to illustrate the theme of illusion vs. reality in “Miss Brill.” The fur worn by Miss Brill symbolizes the illusion of her grandeur and the life she wishes she had. The fur also represents the reality of her loneliness and the need for connection. When the fur is taken away, the illusion of her grandeur is shattered, and Miss Brill is forced to confront the harsh reality of her loneliness. Mansfield’s use of symbolism illustrates the theme of illusion vs. reality and emphasizes the idea that appearances can be deceiving.
  • In “Miss Brill,” how does Katherine Mansfield use imagery to convey the theme of isolation?
  • Katherine Mansfield uses vivid imagery to convey the theme of isolation in “Miss Brill.” The park where Miss Brill spends her Sundays is depicted as a cold and lifeless place, full of dead leaves and bare trees. This imagery reflects the emotional state of Miss Brill and the loneliness she feels. Additionally, the descriptions of the other park-goers as “odd, silent, nearly all old” contribute to the sense of isolation and detachment from the world around her. Mansfield’s use of imagery emphasizes the theme of isolation and highlights the emotional distance that separates Miss Brill from the people around her.
  • How does the use of irony in “Miss Brill” contribute to the theme of delusion?
  • Katherine Mansfield uses irony to illustrate the theme of delusion in “Miss Brill.” Miss Brill’s belief that she is an important part of the Sunday ritual in the park is shattered when she overhears the young couple mocking her and her fur. The irony lies in the fact that Miss Brill’s illusion of her own importance is shattered by the very people she believed she was important to. The use of irony in this instance emphasizes the theme of delusion and underscores the idea that the reality of the situation is vastly different from Miss Brill’s perception of it.

Literary Works Similar to “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield

Thematic similarities (loneliness, illusion, aging):.

  • “ A Rose for Emily ” by William Faulkner: A reclusive Southern woman, Miss Emily Grierson, clings to the past as her world changes around her. Both stories explore the destructive power of isolation and the fragility of self-constructed illusions.
  • “The Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield: While focused on a young, privileged woman, this story also touches upon class divisions and the gap between curated appearances and internal experience.
  • “Araby” by James Joyce: A young boy experiences romantic disillusionment in this coming-of-age story. Similar to Miss Brill, the protagonist constructs an idealized fantasy that collapses when faced with reality.
  • Stories by Anton Chekhov: Chekhov, like Mansfield, was a master of the short story form and often explored themes of loneliness, dissatisfaction, and the yearning for unfulfilled desires. Works like “The Lady with the Dog” delve into similar territory.

Stylistic Similarities (Introspection, Subtlety):

  • “The Dead” by James Joyce: This longer story from Joyce’s Dubliners collection features a similar introspective style and focuses on a central character’s moment of epiphany and disillusionment.
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness narrative and exploration of inner lives shares stylistic sensibilities with Mansfield’s work. While the setting and characters are quite different, there’s a shared emphasis on the interior experience.
  • Stories by Alice Munro: A contemporary master of the short story, Munro’s works often examine the lives of everyday people with psychological depth and nuanced observation.

Suggested Readings: “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield

  • Fullbrook, Kate. Katherine Mansfield. Plymouth: Northcote House, 2002.
  • Hanson, Clare, and Andrew Gurr. Katherine Mansfield: Writers and Their Work. London: Northcote House Publishers, 2006.
  • Moran, Patricia. Word of Mouth: Body Language in Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996.
  • Gunsteren, Julia. “Katherine Mansfield and Literary Impressionism.” Twentieth-Century Literature 57.1 (2011): 23-58.
  • Jan Pilditch. “Mansfield’s ‘Miss Brill’.” The Explicator 56.2 (1998): 101+. Literature Resource Center .
  • Narita, Miyoko. “The Illusion of Knowledge in Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Miss Brill.'” Studies in Short Fiction 25.3 (1988): 319-322.
  • The Katherine Mansfield Society: https://katherinemansfieldsociety.org/katherine-mansfield-resources/stories/ : A dedicated website providing biographical information, critical analysis, and resources related to Mansfield’s work.
  • Modernist Commons: https://www.library.upenn.edu/software-and-tools/scholarlycommons : A digital repository that may contain scholarly articles and resources on “Miss Brill” or Mansfield’s other writings.
  • Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/ : Often hosts free, public domain versions of classic literary texts, including works by Katherine Mansfield.

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miss brill thesis statement

Sample Student Essay on Katherine Mansfield’s “Miss Brill”

The following essay was written by a student who wishes to remain anonymous.  (As we will shortly see, this reticence stems from modesty, not embarrassement!)

The essay is discussed at some length here .

It was written in response to the following assignment:

Discuss how the author's choice of a particular point of view helps communicate a central theme of the tale.  Develop a clear argument to show how the narrator's point of view is essential to the audience's recognizing and understanding the theme.  Support your argument with specific observations and analysis.  Quote and document according to the guidelines in the chapter "Writing About Literature" at the back of our textbook.

 Mansfield’s “Miss Brill”

     This short story is narrated in the third person from the point of view of the limited omniscient narrator who primarily acts as the voice of the story’s protagonist, Miss Brill. By telling the story through the eyes of the protagonist, Mansfield is able to convey to the reader the protagonist’s loneliness and the lack of self-awareness. She offers no explanation as to the Miss Brill’s past, leaving it to the readers to draw their own conclusions. At the same time the author provides illuminating insights into the protagonist’s character and lifestyle that effectively communicate to the reader the theme of this short story. The central theme of “Miss Brill” is the pain of loneliness, and inadvertent attempts to experience life through the experiences of total strangers.

    From the beginning of the narrative it becomes apparent that Miss Brill is starving for warmth and companionship. She tenderly caresses her fur as if it were a beloved pet when she rubbs “the life into the dim little eyes” (p.50) of the old fox boa. Another sign of Miss Brill’s need for companionship is evident in her perception of the music which the band is playing at the Jardins Publiques: “It was like some one playing with only the family to listen (p.50).” Despite of her loneliness, she is considering herself a part of this family that the band is entertaining with its music. But in reality she is more of an observer, a voyeur, and not an active participant in life as it unfolds at the Jardins Publiques. She is looking forward to eavesdropping on other people’s conversations, believing herself to be quite an expert in remaining unnoticed. Miss Brill adopts a more critical, at times even hostile, attitude toward the women that she observes in the park than toward their male companions: she views the man who shares her “special” seat as “a fine old man,” while the woman is “a big old woman (p.50).” When she recollects the events of the previous Sunday at the park, she remembers a patient Englishman with the difficult to please wife, whom “Miss Brill wanted to shake (p.50).” These observation of the women carry perhaps a note of envy that she feels toward the women who have male companionship.

    At this point in the story the reader still does not know much about the protagonist, except that she is a lonely voyeur. Then one of her observations about the “odd, silent, nearly all old people, and from the way they stared they looked as though they’d just come from dark little rooms or even – even cupboards! (p.51)” whom she sees every Sunday at the park hints to the reader that she might be one of those people. The pieces of the puzzle, of course, fall into place at the end of the story, when the protagonist’s room is described as “the little dark room-her room like a cupboard (p.52).” This is the conclusion of the story, when Miss Brill is able to see herself and her surroundings in the new light. Her new self-awareness is brought about by disparaging remarks of the young lovers who refer to Miss Brill as “that stupid old thing (p.52),” and to her precious fur as “a fried whiting (p.52).” This is Miss Brill’s moment of epiphany. She is as old as the other park-goers, her fur is a pitiful necklet, and she foregoes her usual Sunday slice of honeycake. In spite of her newly found self-awareness, Miss Brill still denies some of her own emotions when “she thought she heard something crying (p.52)” at the very end of the story. The tears are obviously her own.

 Mansfield, Katherine. “Miss Brill.” An Introduction to Fiction. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 7 th ed. New York: Longman, 1999. 50-52

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English Composition 1

Sample eng 1001 essay on mansfield's "miss brill".

"The End of an Illusion," written by Jamie Fast for an ENG 1001 class at IVCC, is an excellent essay on Katherine Mansfield's "Miss Brill." The essay is a winner of IVCC's Richard Publow Memorial Scholarship, and Jamie has given permission to a textbook publisher that has requested to include part of the essay in an English composition textbook.   

With Jamie's permission, the essay is copied below. The essay is outstanding, with strong organization and especially effective support and development of ideas. Jamie uses a sophisticated writing voice and demonstrates a mastery of English grammar, punctuation, and word-choice.

Notice in particular the support and development of ideas in the body paragraphs and the lengths of the body paragraphs. Each body paragraph is the substantial length of about 300 words and is well focused on the development of one main idea.

Just click the numbered links to read comments concerning some of the reasons why the essay is so good.

          In the short story "Miss Brill," penned by Katherine Mansfield in 1922, a Sunday afternoon is spent with an elderly woman during her weekly ritual of visiting a seaside park. The woman, Miss Brill, enjoys her habitual outing to hear the band play and soak in the atmosphere, but most of all she relishes the chance to sit in on the lives of others by listening and watching. Mansfield's "Miss Brill" illustrates the old woman's attempt to alleviate loneliness by creating an alternate reality for herself, yet she is ultimately forced to face the self-deception for what it truly is. {2}

          Miss Brill's ritual of visiting the park every Sunday helps her to cope with loneliness. {3} It is clear how much enjoyment the old woman derives from the simple activity as the narrator states, "Oh, how fascinating it was! How she enjoyed it! How she loved sitting [t]here, watching it all!" The weekly outing provides an opportunity for Miss Brill to place herself in the company of others and to leave behind "the little dark room" in which she lives. Miss Brill employs the tactics of listening and watching to passively include herself in the activities of the park crowd. She is expert at "sitting in other people's lives for just a minute" by eavesdropping. This habit of "listening as though she didn't listen" helps her to feel included. Being an avid people watcher, Miss Brill pays rapt attention to those who surround her. By the same care she takes in noticing others, she hopes that "no doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn't been there" in attendance. This thought allows her to feel a sense of community with the strangers at the park. Miss Brill seizes every opportunity she can to imagine herself as having some connection with the individuals she observes in attempt to garner a sense of belonging. She even likens herself to being a part of the "family" that the band plays to. In effect, the weekly outing provides a means to escape the isolation felt in her solitary existence for a period of time by engaging herself in the happenings at the park. However, as Miss Brill observes and listens, she prefers to view her world through a proverbial set of rose colored glasses to protect herself from confronting the truth of her lonely existence. {4}

          Miss Brill alters her perception of reality to avoid facing unpleasant aspects of her life. {5} The first example of this is noted as she settles in on her "special" bench at the park and touches the fur stole surrounding her neck, and she is comforted by the fur's presence. She thinks of the pelt as more of a companionable pet as she considers that "she could have taken it off and laid it on her lap and stroked it." Ignoring reality, character and personality are imagined into the lifeless fur as she affectionately refers to the accessory as the "little rogue!" Another indication that Miss Brill skews her reality is seen in her perception of others versus herself. While spectating, Miss Brill observes the other elderly bench sitters who share the same ritual in coming to the park every Sunday to watch and listen. She does not recognize herself as being in the same category when she notices that the others "were odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they'd just come from dark little rooms." She refuses to see her own reflection in this mirror of elderly loners. In the same way, Miss Brill twists her perception as she begins to fancy herself being an "actress." The park setting becomes a stage, the band orchestrates interactions, and the crowd becomes the cast for the scene she imagines as being "exactly like a play." In using this method, she provides herself with a sense of inclusion, importance, and connection to the strangers that surround her. The idea of playing "a part" in the park "performance" allows her to fool herself into believing she has a purpose within the crowd. Unwittingly, she has set herself up to be confronted by the reality of her situation. {6}

          A series of events leads to Miss Brill's illusion being shattered and forces her to realize the self-deception. {7} As she watches on, Miss Brill strongly identifies with an elderly lady in a fur hat who is met by a gentleman. This second woman is thrilled at the chance for company and "was so pleased to see him-delighted!" The man veritably ignores the woman's excited chattering and even goes to the point of being rude. Having lit a cigarette, he "slowly breathed a great deep puff into her face, and even while she was still talking and laughing, flicked the match away and walked on." Miss Brill deeply empathizes with this woman as she transfers the humiliation and pain vicariously felt into the band's music that plays in the background. Miss Brill watches the woman's reaction and imagines that "even the band seemed to know what she was feeling and played more softly, played tenderly." Upon witnessing this scene, Miss Brill places herself into her "actress" mode to avoid vulnerability. In doing so, she is able to delude herself into believing that she is safely distanced from suffering the same hurt as the woman in the fur hat. This coping mechanism allows her to comfortably resume watching and listening, but she has also unknowingly set herself up to be emotionally wounded by a young couple that seat beside her. The young man refers to Miss Brill as "that stupid old thing" in his conversation with his girlfriend. He continues, knowing fully well Miss Brill is listening, by questioning, "'Why does she come here at all-who wants her? Why doesn't she keep her silly old mug at home?'" In an instant, the protective fortress of self-deception {8} that Miss Brill has carefully constructed comes crashing down around her. She is forced to realize that she is not an integral or important part of the crowd that surrounds her, regardless of what she has chosen to imagine. {9}

          Disheartened {10} , Miss Brill leaves the park to return to her "room like a cupboard." She does not even feel worthy enough to treat herself to the usual slice of honeycake purchased from the baker's on her way home. Although Miss Brill's attempts to skew reality serve a purpose for her in helping her to cope with the unpleasant reality of her circumstances, her system is not infallible. Miss Brill is able to deceive herself for a time into avoiding the fact of her loneliness by reframing her thoughts into perceptions that are less overwhelming to her, but she ultimately faces the cruel consequence of this tactic as she is forced to touch base with reality as a result of the insensitive remarks of the young man. {11} {12}

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Read below our complete notes on the short story “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield. Our notes cover Miss Brill summary, themes, characters, and analysis.


Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) is New Zealand’s famous short fiction writer and a poet. The short story name, Miss Brill is written by her. At first, it was published in Athenaeum on 26th November 1920. Later on, it was reprinted in The Garden Party and Other Stories.

This story highlights the glimpses of the aftermath of the First World War. The mayhem created by the war in the French regarding progress and industrialization. People were more inclined towards the wrong concept of progress such as drinking, extravagant dressing, dancing and partying. This story was written in a period where women’s social importance was limited to marrying and bearing children. Spinsters, in particular, were considered useless members of society. Miss.Brill in the story depicts such issues of women as she is also a spinster.

Miss Brill Summary

Katherine Mansfield’s Miss Brill is a short story of a lonesome and an unmarried aged woman. She lives near Jardin Publiques in French town. She makes ends meet by tutoring children and reading newspapers for an old man. Miss Brill usually copes with her loneliness by spending her Sundays strolling in a park or garden.

At the beginning of the story, Miss Brill is looking forward to spending her Sunday strolling in the Jardin Publiques. For which she wants to wear her beloved shabby fur coat. She tries to clean and brush it properly, so it could look good. The music and the appealing beauty of the park fascinates her. She has the habit of discerning things and people deeply. In the park she listens to the conversation of people without their knowing. She sits on her “special seat” quietly. She is more focused towards eavesdropping on people as compared to the band music.

 At first, an old couple sits right next to her silently. They strike her uninteresting, on the ground that they do not speak. At that time, she is also reminded by the thoughts of a whining wife and an old English man on her previous Sunday meeting.

 After that, she shifts her attention towards the people. While this, she observes some pesky kids, an old beggar who is selling flowers and a group of two girls and two soldiers. She seems captivating by all the things playing out before her.

Suddenly, Miss Brill witnesses a girl in ermine toque who approaches a man dressed in grey. They did a small talk for a while. In her mind she builds up thoughts for that pair. However, the man seems rude to Miss Brill when he blows his cigarette’s smoke on that girl’s face. While the girl with a shabby hat hides her humiliation by responding with a smile. On witnessing this, Miss Brill feels uncomfortable. Therefore, she turns her attention towards other things.

The seats previously occupied by an old couple are now filled by a young couple. Miss. Brill thinks of them as a hero and heroine in her imagination while observing them. She tries to eavesdrop on them. However, the young couple disrespects Miss Brill. They make fun of her appearance and age and why is she present in the park. They rebuke her by calling Miss.Brill a stupid old thing.

In response, Miss Brill leaves and does not stop by the bakery to buy a slice of honey cake. As she arrives home, she doffs her fur coat and puts it back into the box.

Themes in Miss Brill

Loneliness and dissociation.

Miss Brill is an unmarried, aged and lonely woman. She has a routine of spending her Sundays at a park to overcome her loneliness. She has an urge to participate in the outer world for which she visits the park every Sunday.

Although, she does not have any direct interaction or communication with the outer world. Rather, she sits there quietly and discerns the activities of people. She listens to their conversations and arguments. In this way, she considers herself a part of the community.

However, readers can see the attitude of the people around her. Her loneliness is evident from her fur coat. Sitting in the middle of people she only talks to her fur coat. No one seems to be talking to her. A young couple approaches and mocks her presence and says that she is not wanted here. Nobody is expecting her to be here at all . They mock her appearance as well by calling her “ a stupid old thing” . This rebuke contradicts all her previous thoughts. She feels more vulnerable, lonely and dejected.

Youth and Old age

Miss Brill’s fur coat is the representation of her nostalgia for youth. While sitting in the park she admires the young people. However, she represents a negative view about the old people and says, “odd, silent, nearly all old”. She thinks that old people are those creatures that are marginalized and subjugated. This view is evident when she overhears the conversation of a young couple. They make fun of her by calling her “ fried whiting – a cooked fish”.

Reality and Delusion

The story is an amalgamation of delusion and reality. Readers can find her being delusional in the text. Miss Brill talking to her fur coat is a delusional moment. She thinks that her coat is still new and good.

Similarly, the way she thinks about her place in the community. Miss Brill is of the opinion that everyone in the park is like a performer on the stage. Hence, everyone is connected to one another in some ways. In the same way, she considers herself a part of that performance.

Whereas, Miss Brill seems to come out of that delusion by the rapprochement of the young couple. They talk about her unwanted presence and shabby fur coat. They dismiss her views about being connected with others. However, in the end she also realizes that her fur coat is old and shabby.

Miss Brill Characters Analysis

Miss Brill is the protagonist of the story. She is an unmarried, aged and lonely woman, living in the town of France. She makes her living from tutoring children and reading newspapers for an old man. She is the kind of woman who is deprived of social connections. There is a void created in her life.

In the story, she is portrayed as self-deluded about her importance as a member of society. Throughout the story, readers can see the fur coat as her most beloved possession. This fur coat represents her alienation and marginalization. At the end of the story, one can see how her self-delusion is broken by the harsh reality when a young couple insults her. They say that  she is not wanted here. Nobody is expecting her to be here at all.

The Old man and Woman

They are the well-dressed old couple who sits next to Miss Brill in the park. They seem uninteresting to Miss Brill as they do not communicate. Though, she observes their dressing.

A Girl wearing an Ermine toque and a Gentleman in grey

Miss Brill sees a girl wearing an ermine toque. This girl approaches a gentleman who looks wealthy by appearance. Both of them get engaged in small talk for a while. However, the gentleman strikes rude to Miss Brill for he blows cigarette smoke on that girl’s face. At that time, she felt pitiful for that girl.

Young boy and girl

They are the two adults. They appear at the end of the story. Miss Brill is criticized by these young adults. They call her “a stupid old thing” and also make fun of her coat.

Miss Brill Analysis

“ Miss Brill” is a short story written by Katherine Mansfield. It revolves around an unmarried aged and lonely woman living near Jardin Publiques in French town.. Miss Brill is a spinster and makes her living by tutoring children and reading newspapers to an old man. She has a routine of spending her Sundays at the Jardin Publiques to fill a void created in her life.

Setting of the story

The location of the story is set in France at Jardin Publiques in early spring and in Miss Brill’s home as well. Mansfield has set the time setting in the 1990s. 

Katherine, through the character of Miss Brill, exposes the harsh reality of society. Mansfield uses “Fur Coat”  as a symbol of marginalization for Miss Brill. At first, it was removed from the box “ Miss.Brill put up her hand and touched her fur. Dear little thing! It was so nice to feel it again” . Whereas, in the end, it is again put into that box. Through this, she depicts the attitude of society towards Miss Brill. She lets herself out of that box like that coat. Whereas, the cruel society once again put her into that dark place.She removed the lid from the box and placed it inside. After  that, she puts the lid on the box. In order to express her feelings Mansfield personifies the coat with “crying”. Through this she highlights her subjugation and behavior of people.

Similarly, readers can find Mansfield with the view of the mistreatment of poor people within a society. Particularly, when Miss Brill is criticized by the young couple for her presence and appearance that she is not wanted here. Nobody is expecting her to be here at all

Although, at some points, Miss Brill seems optimistic and imaginative. She thinks that everyone is connected to one another like the actors on the stage “ They were all on the stage”. They weren’t only the audience, not only looking on; they were acting “. Likewise, her self-delusion becomes obvious when she thinks of herself as a part of this performance “ Even she had a part and came every Sunday” .

Moreover, the incredible imagery is set for the representation of Miss Brill’s youth and old age . Particularly, when Miss Brill compares the young girl waning countenance of her face with her shabby hat “her face, even her eyes, was the same colour as the shabby ermine”. Through that Mansfield deploys that how with time she has grown old.

As well as, Mansfield depicts the decaying of society by employing the imagery of autumn “ Behind the rotunda the slender trees with yellow leaves down drooping” . It is evident people were living an absurd life with a disrupted social setup. They were more focused on gaining wealth, partying and extravagant dressing.

Moreover, implicitly in the text, Mansfield also highlights the erosion of moral values. A boy and a girl approach Miss Brill and open up an argument which sounds sexual. Boy seemed to be asking something while the girl kept refusing.  Boy thought that maybe Miss Brill’s unwanted presence is the reason behind refusal. 

In addition, Mansfield exhibits the society’s mark of utmost importance as clothes. This is shown through the character of Miss Brill when she identifies everyone from their dressing.

Furthermore, Mansfield also provides the issues of females. Society’s treatment towards a spinster is shown through the character of Miss Brill. She is looked down upon by society because women’s social importance was only to marry and have children. So spinsters were considered useless members during that time.

Tone of the story

Beginning of the story is set in an optimistic, whimsical and blithe tone. Whereas, in the end, the tone of the story completely changes into a detached tone.  Particularly, when Miss Brill’s assumptions about society proves wrong.

Literary devices

There are certain literary devices such as metaphors, similes, personification in the story.  Readers can find the combination of metaphors with similes in the beginning of the story. Miss Brill exhibits the sky with powdered golden colors “ sky powdered with gold” . Also, she compares the sun rays with the color of wine set with the help of simile “ spots of light like white wine” .

Throughout the story, readers can find personifications of fur coat for instance “Little rogue,” its eyes “snap at her,”. In addition, another comparison is also drawn with the help of simile. A young girl, who proved Miss Brill assumptions wrong by her cruel comments “ like a fried whiting”.  Moreover, metonymy has also used when Miss Brill refers to the girl wearing ermine torque. Readers can see Miss Brill using “Ermine toque”  (item of cloth) as a substitute for a woman.

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Summary: "miss brill".

“Miss Brill” is a short story written by Katherine Mansfield. First published in the literary magazine Athenaeum in 1920, the story explores human nature through themes such as the power of imagination and the role that each person plays in life. Miss Brill, a middle-aged, unmarried, and lonely English woman living in a French city, recounts a Sunday afternoon outing to the Jardins Publiques (Public Gardens) in the early fall.

On a crisp, beautiful fall Sunday, as she sits on her usual bench, Miss Brill remembers taking out her special fox fur necklet and carefully preparing it for her weekly outing to the Jardins Publiques. After brushing the fur, polishing the little creature’s glass eyes, and fixing his squashed nose, Miss Brill discloses that he is not just a fur; he is a “little rogue” (Paragraph 1) and a companion.

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Miss Brill notices every detail of her surroundings as she sits in the park; she comments on the chill in the air and the band conductor’s new coat and his proud manner of conducting, “like a rooster about to crow” (Paragraph 2). The music seems “louder and gayer” (Paragraph 2) today with the season starting.

Sharing her bench with an old couple she has seen here before, she is disappointed that they don’t talk because she enjoys listening in on other people’s lives. She reveals that eavesdropping is one of her favorite parts of Sundays in the park , where she can imagine “sitting in other people’s lives just for a minute” (Paragraph 3).

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Remembering the English couple who sat next to her the previous week, she recounts her disgust with the wife, who discussed at length her need for spectacles while refusing to get them, while her patient husband attempted to help her by pointing out solutions to all the difficulties she imagined spectacles would cause. Miss Brill “wanted to shake her” (Paragraph 4).

Continuing to observe the people in the park this Sunday, Miss Brill describes all the passersby: little children running around, chased by their mothers; older children playing, running, and laughing; young couples meeting up for a stroll; and two peasant women walking through the park leading donkeys. Miss Brill comments that the people in the park each Sunday are nearly always the same, and that there is something “funny about nearly all of them. They were odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they’d just come from dark little rooms or even—even cupboards!” (Paragraph 5).

Suddenly, a scene takes place before her: An older woman meets up with a man she knows. She wears a faded, old ermine toque; she is all the same color—yellow and faded—as her hat. The man brushes her off rudely, blowing smoke from his cigarette in her face and marching away. The older lady pretends to see another, better acquaintance in the distance and hurries off. Miss Brill sympathizes with this woman, imagining that the band drum beats out “The Brute! The Brute!” (Paragraph 8) in response to the man’s callous rudeness. The old couple gets up and walks away.

Miss Brill realizes that the scene before her reminds her of a play; they are all actors on the stage of life. In this way, she can imagine herself as an important actress in the play, a necessary and integral part of life. She realizes that this is why she is shy about telling her English students about what she does on Sundays. She even imagines the old, invalid man she reads to being impressed that he is being read to by an actress. She imagines telling him that she has been an actress for a long time.

The band starts up again, and Miss Brill imagines all the company—all the strangers in the park—singing along with the band. They are all part of something uplifting and wonderful.

At this moment, a young couple sits down beside her, and Miss Brill immediately casts them as the hero and heroine of her internal play. Intent on their own lives, the young man wants the young woman to tell him she loves him. She refuses. The young man assumes his girlfriend is shy because of the old lady sitting next to them; he insults Miss Brill, calling her a “stupid old thing” whom nobody wants and who should “keep her silly old mug at home” (Paragraph 13). In turn, the girl laughs at Miss Brill’s fur, which she says looks like a “fried whiting” (Paragraph 14).

Miss Brill goes straight home, not stopping in the bakery for her usual piece of honey-cake , a weekly treat. She sits on her bed, in her “little dark room—her room like a cupboard” (Paragraph 18) for a long time; then, she gently puts her fur necklet away. She imagines that she hears something crying as she shuts the lid.

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“Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield Essay

Symbolism is used in literature to denote a deeper meaning beyond the usual meaning of words. It can be used to characterize a situation or a person in a story to signify a hidden, concealed, or camouflaged meaning. For example, thunderstorm in a scene signifies troubled times or a catastrophe in the making. On the other hand, animals can be used to symbolize the character of a person. For instance, a pig is used to symbolize gluttony.

In the story ‘Mrs. Brill’ by Katherine Mansfield, symbolism is used to reveal the fantasy propagated by the main character due to her loneliness and lack of contact or interactions with humanity. The character is portrayed through symbolism as an elderly woman living her sunset years in an unreal world that is soon shattered by the harsh realities of life.

When we encounter Mrs. Brill, she is excited. The weather symbolizes the joviality felt by the protagonist. The fine weather portrays to us the mood and sense of happiness that the character is brimming with, as she is smugly satisfied with her existence. She is under the illusion that her life is as perfect as the weather.

She is also happy at having retrieved her fur from its box, which is a symbol of the longing the character is having for adventure and the expectations of life. The fur reminds her of better days. She refers to it as ‘Dear little thing’ to signify her attachment to it (182).

This attachment can be seen as a symbol of the protagonist’s pride in herself. It symbolizes what the character feels about herself and her life in general. Mrs. Brill has managed to convince herself that the fur is still in good condition despite its age just as her life is happy and eventful, though she has advanced in years.

The fur also symbolizes the change or transformation of Mrs. Brill. At first, the elderly woman is proud of it, just as she is happy with her state of life. Although it is old, she believes it can be refurbished to become as attractive as before. This can be seen as the opinion of the old woman about herself.

She seems to feel that her age has not affected the quality of her live, and she is still enjoying her life despite her age. Talking to the fur also symbolizes someone who lacks someone to talk to, and is left with no alternative but to address and hold a conversation with her property.

This fantasy is maintained in her mind until she is brought down to earth through a disparaging remark made by a young woman concerning the fur. This disappoints the old woman that she deviates from her normal routine. She does not make her usual bakery stop but returns to her room that is characterized as a cupboard. The cupboard is used to symbolize loneliness and desolation. The darkness of the cupboard symbolizes the depression that surrounds Mrs. Brill’s life. Hearing Mrs.

Brill crying further symbolizes the hopelessness of her situation as no one has ever referred to her by her name (186). She is not accustomed to being called, so she does it herself, referring to herself in the third party. This is a symbolism of detachment from reality and unwillingness to associate her name with herself. Her crying also marks the dawning of the harsh reality of life on her.

The author uses symbolism to show that the protagonist is living in fantasy and denial. She does this by the portrayal of Mrs. Brill as a silent busybody who likes to be privy to other people’s affairs. Though she has no friends, she dabbles in other people’s lives by eavesdropping on their conversations.

She considers herself superior to the people around her. By depicting the life around her as a play, she can convince herself of her superiority and use the orchestra playing to weave a make-believe play that satisfies her sense life. The orchestra’s tune symbolizes to the elderly woman the richness of her existence with the start of the season portending exciting times with the appearance of strangers. To the readers, this symbolizes a lonely life without worthwhile activities. Her routine of walks in the park shows scarcity of other activities.

The story’s title is also full of symbolism. It creates a picture of a lonely old Englishwoman living her last years cut off from contact with her family and other people. It portrays an unmarried woman who is a former teacher of a kindergarten. In her retirement, the title symbolizes that she is too formal, withdrawn, and does not form friendships easily.

Although we may feel sorry for her, it is in her character to rub people the wrong way and coupled with her unsocial behavior of eavesdropping and superior attitude; it no wonders no one warms up to her. The woman is also given just her surname to symbolize that she has no friends and no close acquaintance apart from a sick man that she reads to sometimes. The invalid is incapable of conversations, let alone interactions and relationships.

By wearing fur in warm weather to show off, it symbolizes the pomposity of the character. She seems to care what people think of her through her appearance and not her character. Indeed, she emphasizes appearance symbolizing someone who considers herself to have good tastes and better judgment; thus, the social superiority attitude to those around her.

Her description of others is dominated by their appearance, which to her symbolizes good upbringing and the character or disposition of someone. Her fascination with appearance makes it deeply hurting when the young couple she considered decent and likable turn on her and make unflattering remarks about her and her fur.

In conclusion, Katherine Mansfield effectively uses symbolism to bring out the theme of her story ‘Mrs. Brill’. The fur in this story is used as a symbol of the life of Mrs. Brill. It depicts the transformation of the attitude of the protagonist concerning her life.

At first, she is excited with the fur, complimenting it on its versatility and endurance, only to be deeply disappointed when she overhears it being described scathingly by a young couple. This is a symbol of her life that she thought was happy only for reality to intrude and reveal her loneliness. Symbolism is used to show how loneliness had fed the old woman’s illusions only for reality to harshly reveal itself.

Works Cited

Mansfield, Katherine. Miss Brill . Berlin: Reclam Verlag Leipzig, 2001

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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — Fiction — The Theme of Loneliness in “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield


The Theme of Loneliness in "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield

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Published: Feb 12, 2019

Words: 1130 | Pages: 2 | 6 min read

Table of contents

Miss brill's life as a depiction of the key theme, when the main part of the story begins, works cited.

  • Barnard, P. (1989). Katherine Mansfield. Routledge.
  • Böllinger, L. (2015). The Aestheticization of Discomfort and Empathy in Katherine Mansfield's “Miss Brill.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, 17(2).
  • Brooks, P. (1984). Reading for the plot: Design and intention in narrative. Harvard University Press.
  • Eysteinsson, Á. (2013). The concept of modernism. In The concept of modernism (pp. 11-40). Routledge.
  • Goldman, A. (1982). Katherine Mansfield and the Origins of Modernist Fiction. Cornell University Press.
  • Lawrence, D. H. (1921). Women in Love. T. Seltzer.
  • Mansfield, K. (1997). The Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield. Wordsworth Editions.
  • Martin, W. R. (1977). “A Journey into Pure Being”: The Visual Arts in “Miss Brill.” Journal of Modern Literature, 6(1), 47-57.
  • Reeder, L. A. (1974). Katherine Mansfield's Miss Brill. The Explicator, 33(1), 28-30.
  • Tóibín, C. (2009). The Empty Spaces in Miss Brill. The London Review of Books, 31(3), 17-18.

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miss brill thesis statement

miss brill thesis statement

Katherine Mansfield

Ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

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The Theme Wheel visualizes all of Miss Brill 's themes and plot points on one page.

Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon

The Theme Wheel is interactive.

  • Themes : Hover over or tap any of the themes in the Themes and Colors Key to show only that theme. Click a theme in the Themes Key to lock it.
  • Summary : Hover over or tap any row of colored boxes to read the summary associated with that row. Click the row to lock the summary.

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  1. 💣 Miss brill thesis statement. Themes in Miss Brill. 2022-10-08

    miss brill thesis statement

  2. Analysis of Miss Brill Essay Example

    miss brill thesis statement

  3. "Miss Brill," by Katherine Mansfield

    miss brill thesis statement

  4. Miss Brill Essay Thesis

    miss brill thesis statement

  5. Miss Brill’s Essay Example

    miss brill thesis statement

  6. A Stylistic Analysis of “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield

    miss brill thesis statement


  1. A Summary and Analysis of Katherine Mansfield's 'Miss Brill'

    By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University) 'Miss Brill' is a short story by the New-Zealand-born modernist writer Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923). The story was first published in the Athenaeum in 1920 and then included in Mansfield's 1922 collection The Garden Party and Other Stories: a book which, along with T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, James…

  2. Miss Brill Summary & Analysis

    Miss Bril l, sitting in the Jardins Publiques (Public Gardens) in a French town on a marvelously fine day, wears a fur coat. It is autumn. She touches her coat repeatedly, her "dear little thing", which she had taken out of storage and "rubbed the life back into.". She imagines talking to the fur coat and the fur coat talking back to her.

  3. Short Story Critical Analysis: Sample Essay on "Miss Brill"

    Sharing Her Perceptions. In "Miss Brill," Katherine Mansfield introduces readers to an uncommunicative and apparently simple-minded woman who eavesdrops on strangers, who imagines herself to be an actress in an absurd musical, and whose dearest friend in life appears to be a shabby fur stole. And yet we are encouraged neither to laugh at Miss ...

  4. "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield: A Critical Analysis

    Thesis statement: By using various instances of irony such as the contrast between Miss Brill's perceptions and the reality of her situation, Mansfield highlights the protagonist's illusions and delusions and ultimately underscores the theme of the story.

  5. What is a suitable thesis statement for "Miss Brill"?

    A good thesis statement would therefore be something like: In "Miss Brill," Mansfield opposes appearances vs. reality to show the intense loneliness of the protagonist. This thesis statement gives ...

  6. Miss Brill: Full Story Analysis

    Miss Brill is an aging outsider denying her alienation by vicariously inserting herself into the lives of others until she is forced to recognize the truth. As the story develops, Mansfield's third-person narrator reveals this truth gradually, heightening its impact. The story begins in medias res, foregoing traditional exposition.

  7. Sample Student Essay on Katherine Mansfield's "Miss Brill"

    Miss Brill adopts a more critical, at times even hostile, attitude toward the women that she observes in the park than toward their male companions: she views the man who shares her "special" seat as "a fine old man," while the woman is "a big old woman (p.50)." When she recollects the events of the previous Sunday at the park, she ...

  8. Miss Brill by Katherine Mansfield Plot Summary

    Miss Brill is a middle-aged woman who spends her days as a teacher for children and as a reader for an old man who hardly recognizes her existence. Every Sunday she wears her shabby fur coa t to the French public park called Jardins Publiques. She speaks to the coat as if speaking to another person—an act that becomes the reader's first indication of her true loneliness and alienation.

  9. Analysis, Summary and Themes of "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield

    Summary of "Miss Brill". It's a fine day with a slight chill in the air in the Jardin Publiques, a park in France. Miss Brill wears her fur stole, which is starting to show its age a bit. She'll touch it up when it's necessary. She had taken it out of storage that afternoon and brushed it.

  10. ENG 1001:Sample ENG 1001 Essay on Mansfield's "Miss Brill"

    English Composition 1 Sample ENG 1001 Essay on Mansfield's "Miss Brill" "The End of an Illusion," written by Jamie Fast for an ENG 1001 class at IVCC, is an excellent essay on Katherine Mansfield's "Miss Brill." The essay is a winner of IVCC's Richard Publow Memorial Scholarship, and Jamie has given permission to a textbook publisher that has requested to include part of the essay in an ...

  11. Miss Brill Summary, Themes, Characters, and Analysis

    Miss Brill is the protagonist of the story. She is an unmarried, aged and lonely woman, living in the town of France. She makes her living from tutoring children and reading newspapers for an old man. She is the kind of woman who is deprived of social connections. There is a void created in her life.

  12. Miss Brill Essays and Criticism

    Miss Brill herself is old, as we realise immediately from the author's handling of her stylised inner monologue. Her speech patterns are those of a nervous, fussy, elderly person. She is ...

  13. Miss Brill Full Text and Analysis

    Miss Brill is an English teacher living in France who has limited social contact with the outside world. She puts on a fur necklet and goes to the park to listen to other people's conversations so that she can fantasize about a reality that protects her from her own. She views life as a form of theater and herself as a spectator.

  14. Miss Brill Summary and Study Guide

    Summary: "Miss Brill". "Miss Brill" is a short story written by Katherine Mansfield. First published in the literary magazine Athenaeum in 1920, the story explores human nature through themes such as the power of imagination and the role that each person plays in life. Miss Brill, a middle-aged, unmarried, and lonely English woman living in ...

  15. "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield

    In the story 'Mrs. Brill' by Katherine Mansfield, symbolism is used to reveal the fantasy propagated by the main character due to her loneliness and lack of contact or interactions with humanity. The character is portrayed through symbolism as an elderly woman living her sunset years in an unreal world that is soon shattered by the harsh ...

  16. Miss Brill Themes

    Miss Brill, the protagonist of the story, is a spinster - a word used, at the time of the publication of the story, to refer to an unmarried woman - who spends her days teaching schoolchildren and reading the newspaper to a half-dead man who cares little for her presence.Miss Brill yearns for conversation, yet both the students and the old man don't listen to her.

  17. Miss Brill Questions and Answers

    My question is: What is a suitable thesis statement for "Miss Brill"? How old is Miss Brill? What are her circumstances? Why does she listen in on conversations? What is Miss Brill's nationality ...

  18. The Theme of Loneliness in "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield

    The central theme of the short piece Miss Brill by Katherine Mansfield is the pain of loneliness and undeniable attempts people who are alone make to live their lives vicariously and insidiously through others and the environment around them. Rather than finding company through interaction with others the lonely among us uncover fulfillment by experiencing life's pleasures through others.

  19. PDF A Stylistic Analysis of "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield

    This thesis, however, is concerned primarily with the style of "Miss Brill", and aims to provide an integrative, systematic stylistic analysis of the short story, deriving its underlying theories from a method of prose text ... "Miss Brill" is considered as one of Katherine Mansfield's finest pieces of short fiction. It is a

  20. Is this a good thesis for Katherine Mansfield's "Miss Brill": "Miss

    What is a suitable thesis statement for "Miss Brill"? 8 Educator answers. Miss Brill. Latest answer posted November 12, 2020 at 11:05:59 AM

  21. Miss Brill Theme Wheel Data Visualization

    The Theme Wheel visualizes all of Miss Brill 's themes and plot points on one page. The Theme Wheel is interactive. Themes: Hover over or tap any of the themes in the Themes and Colors Key to show only that theme. Click a theme in the Themes Key to lock it. Summary: Hover over or tap any row of colored boxes to read the summary associated with ...

  22. Thesis Statement on Miss Brill

    Miss Brill. Tweet. Date Submitted: 12/26/2000 21:00:55. Category: / Literature / English. Length: 4 pages (1208 words) Loneliness is a painful feeling that no one in this world can bear. Some try to overcome that feeling, others try to find ways to escape from it. There are, for instance, many ways to escape from loneliness, such as escaping it ...

  23. What's a good thesis for the theme of isolation in "Miss Brill" and

    Both "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield and Trifles by Susan Glaspell depict the profound isolation and loneliness suffered by women, but in very different ways. This thesis statement would give ...