Miss Brill

Published: 2021-09-05 19:30:13
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Miss Brill is a short story written by Katherine Mansfield and it was published in a collection of stories called The Garden Party in 1922. The story is about a woman who goes to her usual Sunday afternoon walk on Jardins Publiques and what happened there with her that day. In order to provide a study guide about this short story, this paper will analyze the the structure of Plot and the Characters created by the author on Miss Brill. Considering Plot, Miss Brill is a story about a lonely woman who lived in an apartment in France and taught English to students.
Miss Brill’s enjoyment was to wear her “dear little” fur on Sunday afternoon and go to a walk on Jardins Publiques, where she could be away from the loneliness of her “little dark room” and get in touch with people. Besides that, her favorite pastime was to eavesdrop people’s conversations, something on she was “really quite expert” because it made her part of their lives for a moment. However, this eavesdrop became a problem when at that day a young couple sat near Miss Brill and started a conversation about her.
When the boy referred to her as “that stupid old thing” and questioned her importance at that place, she realized her meaningless existence and went back home, where she put her fur on its box and heard “something crying”. The first element of plot is the exposition. In this short story, the exposition brings the care for Miss Brill on preparing her fur for another walk on a Sunday afternoon in the Jardins Publiques – “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”.
Furthermore, there is the exposition of Miss Brill pleasure on that afternoon, by being on her “special seat”, listening to the band playing “louder and gayer” “because the Season had begun” and seeing all the people’s movement around her. The second element of plot should be the rising action. However, in Miss Brill story we can find one of the characteristics of Katherine Mansfield stories: there is no rising action and the writer guide us from the exposition directly to the complication.
Complication begins when the reader is presented to one more pleasure in Miss Brill life: the eavesdropping of people’s conversation, something on that she was a “quite expert” and included her “in other people’s lives just for a minute”. At this point, the narrator tells some scenes throughout Miss Brill’s eyes: the first scene pictures “an Englishman and his wife” by last Sunday, having a conversation in which the man had “suggested everything – gold rims, the kind that curved round your ears, little pads inside the bridge. No, nothing would please her. And, by seeing this “Miss Brill had wanted to shake her. ” Then the narrator pictures “the old couple sat on the bench” that did not talk and made Miss Brill attention looks forward other conversations because it “never mind, there was always the crowd to watch. ” After that, the narrator provides a lot of images of various people walking, playing, talking and having a good time during the afternoon and all of that made Miss Brill to feel connected with all that happenings around her. Gradually, Miss Brill became more and more connected with the scene: “Oh, how fascinating it was!
How she enjoyed it! How she loved sitting here, watching it all. It was like a play. It was exactly like a play. ” By creating the delusion that everyone was acting on a stage and were not just the audience, Miss Brill believed that “somebody would have noticed if she hadn’t been there; she was part of the performance after all”; she felt so important in people’s lives like they are on hers, after all, she realized that she “has been an actress for a long time” on that theater, and this way she can not be the lonely person who goes to the garden every Sunday afternoon.
As a consequence of all that Miss Brill’s delusion in addition to her favorite pastime of eavesdropping, the author provides the reader the climax of this short story when a young couple came and sat near the protagonist. First, Miss Brill had imagined them as “the hero and heroine” of that play who had “just arrived from his father’s yacht” and then Miss Brill prepared herself to listen to their conversation. The boy wanted to date the girl, but she is embarrassed because of Miss Brill’s presence.
Consequently, instead of hearing something that would contribute to her imaginary play, Miss Brill is forced to see her real condition when the young boy referred to her as a “stupid old thing” and questioned: “Why does she come here at all – who wants her? Why doesn’t she keep her silly old mug at home? ”. Besides that, the girl made fun with Miss Brill’s fur by comparing it to a “fried whiting”, and insisted on deny the boy’s desires as long as Miss Brill stayed there.
Finally, in the conclusion, the narrator shows Miss Brill in her way home, when she did not feel worthy enough to buy herself “a slice of honeycake” she was used to by at the barker’s on “her Sunday treat”. She went to her “little dark room – her room like a cupboard” and sat down on the red eiderdown for a long time, certainly thinking about what had happened that afternoon. Then she took off her fur “quickly” without looking at it, and while she put “the lid on she thought she heard something crying”.
Considering Characters, this short story brings Miss Brill as the main character and many passers-by as the minor characters. According to Miss Brill’s thoughts, the reader knows that she is an English woman who is not married and lives alone on an apartment in France. She teaches English to her “pupils” and reads “the newspaper four afternoons a week” to an “old invalid gentleman” while he sleep in the garden. Miss Brill’s enjoyment is her walks in Sunday’s afternoons to the Jardins Publiques, where she can be in touch with different people and eavesdrop their conversations, decreasing, this way, her loneliness.
Miss Brill reflects her own characteristics throughout what she thinks about the other characters. She classified that the people in the park as “odd, and from the way they stared they looked as though they’d just come from dark little rooms or even – even cupboards! ”, unaware she was really talking about herself. The fur, in truth, is also a character who symbolizes Miss Brill with “the life back into the dim little eyes” symbolizing her joy on going out, and the question personified in the voice of the fur “what has been happening to me? in addition to her observation on its nose which “wasn’t at all firm”, meaning the years passed by for both. Also, in the end of the short story, when she personified the fur one more time by saying that she could hear something crying after she returned the fur to its box, indeed Miss Brill is talking about herself crying back to “the little dark room – her room like a cupboard” alone again. Katherine Mansfield does not give many characteristics about the minor characters and the reader just knows what Miss Brill thinks about them.
The old couple sat on the bench “as statues” who do not speak; a patient English man “wearing a dreadful Panama hat” who was trying to please his reluctant wife; the brute man who “slowly breathed a great deep puff” of cigarette smoke into the face of the woman “wearing the ermine toque she’d bought when her hair was yellow”. And, finally, the young couple who “were beautifully dressed; they were in love” and who Miss Brill classified as the “hero and heroine” of her imaginary play, but, in fact, the couple became the end of Miss Brill’s illusion and brought her back to reality.
In conclusion, according to Friedman’s story plots, Miss Brill short story has a plot of thought focused “in what the protagonist of the story thinks and feels”, and being more specifically, it has a “Revelation Plot” where “the ignorance is abolished as truth is revealed”. Besides that, Miss Brill’s characterization is presented by the revelation of her thoughts which, according to Dickinson in A Guide to Literary Study, the author “can reveal more than life does: he can tell us what his people are thinking”, through indirect or direct statements.

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