Miss Brill

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Samantha Fiorenzo
Mrs. Price
Contemporary Fiction
18 April 2013
Imagination or Insanity
In literature, there often seems to be a mysterious, hidden aspect. Often, a writer intentionally crafts his story to include a deeper meaning, but, sometimes, a writer's sub-conscious is at play. In Katherine Mansfield's "Miss Brill" (1920), I would strongly argue that the motivations behind Miss Brill’s actions are caused by the mental illness, schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is “a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes and by a deficit of typical emotional responses” (Wikipedia). Mansfield’s narration of Miss Brill’s providing the reader with Brill's thoughts and emotions indicate she is not a stable individual. Therefore, Miss Brill is mentally debilitated with schizophrenia.

Throughout the entire story Miss Brill’s thoughts and emotions indicate she is mentally unstable. The first warning that she may be mentally conflicted is when she apparently hears her beloved fur scarf talking to her. “What has been happening to me?’ said the sad little eyes” (Mansfield 538). A common symptom of schizophrenia is auditory hallucinations which we see in this quote and also at the end of the story when Miss Brill hears crying coming from the box the fur scarfs is laying in. This can also be interpreted as a cry for help from her inner conscious. Some people have seen her hallucinations as how she truly feels on the inside, I believe differently. Miss Brill’s hallucinations are just one of her multiple signs of having schizophrenia. Her auditory hallucinations are not the only reason for my thoughts of her being schizophrenic; she also has the symptoms of bizarre delusions and significant social dysfunctions (Wikipedia). Her delusions are seen when she comes up with the idea that “It was like a play. It was exactly like a play” (Mansfield 539), “it” referring to her observing the lives of other people. She believes her and everyone she is sitting with at...
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