Miss Brill by Katherine Mansfield
Miss Brill, a short story written by Katherine Mansfield, describes an afternoon in the life of a middle-aged spinster who visits the public park on a weekly basis, leading to her reassessment of her view of the world and the secular reality. Though short in form, it is really worth detailed interpretation and appreciation. The author tells us of her character that: “She had become really quite expert, she thought, at listening as though she didn’t listen, at sitting in other people’s lives just for a minute while they talked around her.”(307). It is this very conservation that Miss Brill enjoys listening to that will shatter her illusion.
In trying to fill the void in her life, Miss Brill spends her leisure time, every Sunday, pretending to be part of the lives of the people she encounters. Miss Brill is a school teacher. Her relationship with the English class she teaches is probably very professional. She does not derive any companionship from teaching. Mansfield also tells us that her character reads the newspaper to an old, invalid gentleman four days a week. The old gentleman usually sleeps through the news. Miss Brill’s only other connection to others is that which see gleans through the overheard conversations in the park.
It is autumn and Miss Brill has removed her fur wrap from storage and readied it for her walk to the park. She sets on the same “special seat” (307) waiting to hear some interesting conversation. She was, at first, disappointed by an old couple that shared her bench because they did not speak. “The old people sat on the bench, still as statues.” (308). Miss Brill thought to herself “Perhaps they would go soon.” (307). Though elderly herself, Miss Brill doesn’t include herself with the other solemn people that she encounters in the park. She says of these people: …they were nearly always the same, Sunday after Sunday, and – Miss Brill had often noticed – there was something funny...
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