Themes in Miss Brill by Katherine Mansfield

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Themes in Miss Brill by Katherine Mansfield

Abstract: Fiction interpretation contributes to a more sufficient understanding and profound appreciation of literary works for readers. 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. This paper will mainly deal with the themes it conveys.

Keywords: Miss Brill, themes, loneliness, acceptance, belonging, estrangement, the elderly

1. Introduction

Miss Brill is one of Katherine Mansfield’s most popular stories published in her 1922 collection of stories entitled The Garden Party and Other Stories. The story is the typical style of Mansfield due to its application of a stream-of-consciousness narrative in which Miss Brill’s character is vividly and depicted through her psychological change when spending her Sunday afternoon on the park bench listening to the band playing and observing the crowd. It begins with Miss Brill’s happy and excited preparation of wearing her prized fur stole and scarf for her regular trip to the pier. Her excitement continues when she is sitting on the bench in the bustling park filled with people, enjoying the warm afternoon, listening to the band’s loud and gay playing and observing different people astutely. Miss Brill considers this scene to be a play, in which she and all other people in the park are characters involved, all perfectly interacting to form an idyllic backdrop for her studies of human nature. She believes herself to be an active and vital actress in this play while to a young couple who make a flippant comment on her, she is just “that stupid old thing” and is not wanted at all. Consequently, her vivacious mood and illusion has been totally and cruelly shattered. She then leaves the...
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