Friday, October 21, 2011

The Reality of "Miss Brill"

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The Reality of “Miss Brill”

In “Miss Brill,” Katherine Mansfield introduces us to a woman who lives in her own world rather than come face to face with the reality that she is poor, alone, and old. Today is special to Miss Brill, the beginning of the autumn “Season has begun” (18) and “the band [sounds] louder and [more cheerful]” (18). Miss Brill goes to the park every Sunday and listens to other people’s conversations. She talks about old people not including her and about how they look as if they did not come out often. “They were odd, silent nearly old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they’d just come form dark little rooms or even--even cupboards” (18-184). While sitting there and looking around she thinks that she is an important part of a theater company. “They were all on stage. They weren’t only the audience, not only looking on; they were acting. Even she had a part and came every Sunday. No doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn’t been there she was part of the performance after all” (185). For how long can Miss Brill pretend rather that seeing her own reality?

Miss Brill is a poor, old woman who comes to the park because she has no money to go anywhere else; she comes “Sunday after Sunday” (18). On this particular Sunday she decided to put on her old fur. Since she cannot afford a new one, she plans on putting wax on it “when it becomes absolutely necessary” (18). After her stay in the park, Miss Brill usually only buys herself a piece of honey cake, and if she is lucky and almond might in the slice.

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Every Sunday she comes to the park like clockwork because she has no one to be with and is lonely. “[Miss Brill] made such a point of starting from home at just the same time each week” (185). Miss Brill, sitting in her special seat, listens to other people’s conversations and pretends to be them because she appears to have no family or friends. “ She had become 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 round her” (18). She may even feel shamed that all she does in Sunday is spent her afternoon in the park. “She had a quite a queer, shy feeling at telling her English pupils how she spent her Sunday afternoons” (185).

Miss Brill does not consider herself old she talks about the other people, “the old people sat on the bench, still as statues” (18). She calls her seat “special” because she has been coming to that place for a very long time. Miss Brill enjoys her time spent in the park even if there are not always interesting things to see and hear. “Last Sunday, too, hadn’t been interesting as usual” (18) In her arms and hands she feels a tingling of old age but she discharges that comes from walking. Perhaps when Miss Brill sees the scene of the woman of the ermine toque it touches a core that she too was once a young woman, and like this woman she too had bought her fur “when her hair was yellow. Now everything, her hair, her face, even her eyes, [were] the same color as the shabby [fur]” (184). Even though Miss Brill never acknowledges being old, she is mentioned in the the story by the young boy as being old. “Because of that stupid of thing at the end there?” (186).

In the end Miss Brill realizes how her life truly is, when the young boy call her old and says that no one wants her there why does she come to the park. The Young boy says, “Why does she come she come here at all--who want her? Why doesn’t she keep her silly old mug at home?” (186). This statement even changes the usual routine of Miss Brill because this Sunday on her way home she did not go to the baker to buy her usual piece of honey cake. Miss Brill finally sees that she is like those old people who looked like they came out of a cupboard. Perhaps she would have been better off in continuing in her fantasy world instead of feeling the pain of reality.

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