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Miss Brill summary

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  • December 3, 2013
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Miss Brill
In Katherine Mansfield’s short story, “Miss Brill”, Miss Brill, a middle aged English teacher, views Sundays as a magical day on which everyone performs a play with her. Miss Brill walks around the “stage” and enjoys eavesdropping on others’ conversations. She thinks of herself as actress. Miss Brill also believes that her tattered fur is her dearest friend. One Sunday, a young couple’s rude remarks shatter her fantasy. Mansfield shows us how hurtful the truth can be. At first, Miss Brill views herself as a vital part of the play. Miss Brill thinks that “somebody would have noticed if she hadn’t been there.” In actuality, nobody cares about her. The band plays the same whether she comes to the public garden or not. Furthermore, none of the people at the garden pay attention to her. For example, when Miss Brill tries to talk to the gentleman in gray, he lights a cigar and breathes a big puff in to her face. An old couple replaces the gentleman in gray. Miss Brill finds them “odd, silent, and nearly all old.” Katherine Mansfield uses dramatic irony in this paragraph. The reader knows that Miss Brill is indirectly describing herself when she says that the old people looked as if they had stepped out of small, dark rooms. The story begins with Miss Brill in a small, dark room, talking to her fur. However, Miss Brill is unaware that she is describing herself. After this old couple leaves, a beautiful young couple, “the hero and the heroine”, takes their place. Miss Brill prepares to listen to their conversation. She hears the couple refer to her as “the stupid old thing” and also hears them insult her fur, which apparently looks like “fried whiting”. Miss Brill becomes very upset. She does not even stop at the baker’s to buy a slice of honeycake, which just might have a surprise almond in it. She hurries home and goes into the small dark room and puts her fur away. Miss Brill realizes she is just like one of the old people, and that she does not matter to...