Miss Brill

Miss Brill The point of view that Katherine Mansfield has chosen to use in “Miss Brill” serves two purposes. First, it illustrates how Miss Brill herself views the world and, second, it helps the reader take the same journey of burgeoning awareness as Miss Brill. The story is written in a third person omniscient (although limited) point of view. Miss Brill also interprets the world around her in a similar fashion. She is her own narrator, watching people around her and filling in their thoughts to create stories to amuse herself.

Compared to most people, Miss Brill’s thinking is atypical. Generally, in viewing the world around him, a person will acknowledge his own presence and feelings. For example, if something is funny, a person will fleetingly think “I find that amusing.” While that entire sentence may not consciously cross his mind, the fact that it is humorous is personally related. Miss Brill has no such pattern of thought. She has somehow managed to not include herself in her reactions; she is merely observing actions and words.

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In this manner, she most resembles the narrator of the story by simply watching and relaying the events around her. This internalized third person point of view is taken even further when Miss Brill decides that the park and everyone in it “[is] like a play. It [is] exactly like a play” (260). This is the epitome of her detached point of view. Not only is she merely watching the people around her, she is so far removed from them that she feels like a separate audience. This theory that she hits upon then changes, and she decides that she does, in fact, have a part in the play as an actress. Even at this point of inclusion, she does not see herself as a leading lady, but as a mere cast member is the drama that unfolds in the park every Sunday.

This seems even more detached. It implies that she is putting on a show rather than behaving and reacting honestly toward her own life. As Miss Brill travels from her isolated existence into self-awareness, the reader is also taken on the same trip. The reader’s perceptions of Miss Brill during the story mirror and shift along with Miss Brill’s perceptions about herself. The reader is given no real clues about Miss Brill other than her profession, a teacher, and that she goes to the park every Sunday. Her age is unidentified and hard to guess; the reader is given no connection between Miss Brill and others her age.

In fact, Miss Brill comes across as much younger than she is, mainly due to her disdain toward older people. She finds them “odd [and] silent . . . from the way they stared they looked as though they’d just come from dark little rooms or even – even cupboards!” (259).

Just as she only focuses on other people, the reader is only told about the people surrounding her at the park. When she decides that she is an actress, the reader gains a similar insight about Miss Brill; she sees her world as an intricate show that can be thrown out of balance by one absence. At the climax of the story, when the two young lovers comment on her appearance, the reader is suddenly aware of how old Miss Brill really is and how unaware she was about that fact. Miss Brill and the reader experience the shattering of her self image at the same time. For the first time during the story, both the reader and she see how other people see her.

At the end of the story, when she puts the fur in its box and “[thinks] she hear[s] someone crying” (261), the reader is finally shown an emotion belonging to Miss Brill. Mansfield’s use of third person point of view in this story allowed her to keep Miss Brill’s fears and realities hidden from the reader. If the reader had been aware of everything from the beginning, there would have been no point at all to the story. Carefully revealing pieces of Miss Brill’s character through this point of view illustrated her own passage into a new reality. Keeping the point of view limited to Miss Brill and excluding the thoughts of the other characters kept the reader centered on Miss Brill so that the same realizations could come about simultaneously.

The reader, through masterful use of point of view, was able to share a very meaningful experience with the character and go through the same steps that she did to reach the end. Bibliography Mansfield, Katherine. “Miss Brill.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer.

5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 1999. 258-61. English Essays.

Miss Brill

Miss Brill Miss Brill: Point of View The narrator in the story “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield, is telling us this story in the third person singular perspective. Our narrator is a non-participant and we learn no details about this person, from a physical sense. Nothing to tell us whether it is a friend of Miss Brill, a relative, or just someone watching. Katherine Mansfield’s Miss Brill comes alive from the descriptions we get from this anonymous person. The narrator uses limited omniscience while telling us about this beautiful Sunday afternoon.

By this I mean the narrator has a great insight into Miss Brill’s perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and into her world as a whole, but no real insight into any of the other characters in this story. By using this point of view, we see the world through the eyes of Miss Brill, and feel her emotions, even though this third party is telling us the story. This beautiful fall afternoon in France unfolds before our eyes because of the pain-staking details given to us by the narrator. We aren’t told many things straight out, but the details are such that we can feel the chill coming into the air and see the leaves of fall drifting to the earth. The figurative language that is used is superb from beginning to end.

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The imagination and detail made me see what was happening and hear the band play. The characters in the park are observed through the eyes of Miss Brill, and we learn bits of information of those who catch her eye. The detail of the observations that Miss Brill makes can be fully realized by turning to anywhere in this story and starting to read. As a reader, you get caught up in the story and lose the fact that there is a narrator. The details as told, seem to be coming directly from Miss Brill at times. The narrator gets us settled into the park with Miss Brill and tells us that she sees those around her as “odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they’d just come from dark little rooms or even-even cupboards!” This tells me that Miss Brill sees herself differently than she sees others, not odd or funny.

She is a part of all this life and activity at the park! An actor in the grand play and “somebody would have noticed if she hadn’t been there.” She really loved to be out with others and thought that she was very much a part of the world and not apart from it. Don’t we all feel this way? Some people are truly introverted and care little of interacting, but I think the majority of us strive to become part of the world and at times feel like this life is one big drama and we have a big part. Our role might only be important for one scene, but we feel like the leading man or woman at times. The narrator leads us to what appears to be a fitting climax; a crescendo of music and song, with all players involved. Miss Brill’s dreams of this were quickly shattered.

The comments by the young people, “Why does she come here at all-who wants her? Why doesn’t she keep her silly mug at home?” leaves Miss Brill with the cold realization that she is in fact like the odd, old people that she watches in the park. She hurries home, not even stopping at the bakery, which was part of her usual Sunday ritual. She retreats to her “little dark room-her room like a cupboard”, as she had described earlier as where these odd folks probably lived. She was now faced with the grim fact that she wasn’t a grand player at all. She would not be missed if she didn’t show up.

She really is one of those people on the bench watching the world go by. As she puts her fur away and the narrator tells us “when she put the lid on she thought she heard something crying”, I feel like life will never be the same for Miss Brill. The fur knows it might not be going out for a very long time. I’m not sure if she’ll ever go back to the park. If she does, it will not be the same. She will have a whole new perspective. An outcast, a lonely spectator watching life pass by, the thrill and excitement, even joy of being an actor is gone.

Katherine Mansfield’s use of this point of view was perfect for Miss Brill. We feel her pain as she is faced with the sudden reality of the emptiness of her life. We hope we aren’t faced with the same reality of being a watcher, apart from others, and not a part of it all. Gary L. Gerhart 1 May 2001 English Essays.


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