Katherine Mansfield’s “Miss Brill” Essay

Katherine Mansfield’s short story “Miss Brill” is a great example of how an author can utilize different literary strategies to lead the reader to a much better understanding of Miss Brill the character. Rather of merely specifying the message of the story, Mansfield used various literary methods to allow the reader to draw his own conclusions about the character. Utilizing these literary elements to reveal a fact about a character to the reader is often referred to as characterization. Four of the most quickly acknowledged literary techniques used in Mansfield’s “Miss Brill” are her usage of symbolism, setting, allusion, and viewpoints used by different characters in her story.

Significance plays a very large part in comprehending Miss Brill the character. This can easily be seen by the relationship between Miss Brill and her “alter-ego”, the fur. A symbol is “an individual, object or occasion that recommends more than its actual significance.” To put it simply, it is something that has two levels of significance: on the actual level it is what it is, for example, Miss Brill’s fur is just a fur.

It can also represent a more “hidden” suggesting such as the fur being a symbol for Miss Brill herself. Miss Brill lives for the days that she spends in the park, this can be seen when she rubs “the life back into [her fur’s] dim little eyes”. This quote expose that the journeys to the park assistance to “rub” life back into Miss Brill.

The condition of the furs eyes also suggest that Miss Brill is not as full of life as he as soon as might have been, but as long as she can see the charm and worth still in her fur, she can keep her sense of worth. Mansfield uses the bond in between Miss Brill and the fur the demonstrate how deeply she needs to belong. For example, throughout the story when Miss Brill is happy the fur is likewise happy, and when the fur is insulted then Miss Brill is likewise insulted. Possibly the best example of this bond is when Miss Brill is sitting in her cupboard-like space and puts her fur away, and believes that she hears “something weeping”. Instead of dealing with the sadness and frustration of the day, she attributes her sadness to the fur.

The setting of “Miss Brill” is an essential function of the story since Miss Brill specifies herself in relation to the setting. As she walks about the park, she feels more and more in tune with her setting, as she notifications that all of individuals at the park, including herself, are actors in a weekly play. Her sense of herself in relation to the setting changes dramatically, of course, when she overhears the young couple ridiculing her. As the story opens, she is upbeat and delighted watching the other individuals in the park. After the young couple mock her, we see the sadness as she walks slowly back to her house, her “cabinet”.

Mansfield likewise uses allusion to enhance the style of the story. We first see Miss Brills allusions to a cupboard as she describes the other senior people in the park. She seems to sympathize with them due to the fact that they are not a part of this grand play like she is. After being confronted by the young couple, Miss Brill recognizes that she likewise lives in a “room like a cabinet”. This allusion Mansfield offers to Miss Brill’s room is important since of 2 factors. She first used the term “cabinet” to explain the homes of the “amusing old individuals” in the park every Sunday.

It does not strike Miss Brill that she is also among these “funny old people”, however, Mansfield tells the audience that she is undoubtedly among these “amusing old people” when she explains Miss Brill’s room to the reader. The used of the term “cupboard” is likewise important due to the fact that it demonstrates the effect setting can have on the readers opinion to the characters real nature. The quote referring to Miss Brills cupboard room, likewise offers the reader a look at the viewpoint that Miss Brill has. When Miss Brill enjoys her room is not so bad, nevertheless, when she is depressed then her perspective is that she is like those “funny old people” that she notices in the park every Sunday.

In “Miss Brill,” the minimal omniscient viewpoint enables the reader to see that Miss Brill stays unchanged when the story ends. The viewpoint is based strictly on what Miss Brill sees and feels, without being biased by her rose-colored view of life. Upon coming to the park, Miss Brill starts to take in the information of her environments. She appear to cling to the best qualities of her surroundings– there were far more people than last Sunday, the band sounded louder and gayer, and the conductor was wearing a brand-new coat. As she beings in her “unique seat” she is dissatisfied that the odd man and seated next to her. She had become “rather a specialist at listening as though she didn’t listen”. She views her eavesdropping as active involvement in conversations surrounding her. Although she continues to watch the others in the crowd in and wonder and fascination, she views the elderly individuals in the crowd rather differently.

She calls them “odd, quiet and almost all old … and they looked as though they had actually simply originated from dark little rooms or perhaps– even cupboards”. Attempting to keep her mid of the elderly people, Miss Brill convinces herself of her value in this grand play which “no doubt, someone would have observed is she hadn’t been there”. When the young couple seated beside her start to talk, Miss Brill listens intently to their discussion. It is then that she hears them talk of her the way she has actually been seeing the other elderly people throughout the afternoon. “Why does she come here at all– who wants her”? The omniscient point of view allows the reader to see this discussion as it really occurred, not as Miss Brill would have no doubt altered it in her mind. When she returns house “to her room like a cupboard” without getting her typical slice of honey cake, we see that she scene at the park has impacted her. Yet, she is not altered by it. When she puts away the fur, “she believes she hears something sobbing”. As a defense mechanism, she associates her sorrow and discomfort to the fur, making it possible to continue in her fantasy world.

Mansfield’s “Miss Brill” is an excellent example of how a reader can gain an understanding of a character through characterization. The reader is allowed to comprehend and analyze the story using their own methods. Mansfield uses the literary approaches of symbolism, setting, and perspectives to make it possible for the reader to understand the story and this get the higher meaning.


“A Short Story: Katherine Mansfield’s Miss Brill”. http://www.op.org/domcentral/study/ashley/arts/arts404.htm

Mansfield, Katherine. “Miss Brill.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry and Drama. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 7th ed. New York: 1999. 33-37.

“Significance”. http://www.kysu.edu/artsscience/LLP/211/symbolsm.htm