Essay about The Theme of Katherine Mansfield's Miss Brill

1221 Words5 Pages
In the story "Miss Brill," an old, lonely lady spends her Sunday observing people in a park. Although ignored by everyone around her, Miss Brill manages to convince herself that she is really an integral part of the scene and would be missed if she weren't there. Her illusion is shattered by a chance remark at the end of the story, and she returns home, clearly devastated by her new understanding of her place in life. What this story is trying to illustrate is that sometimes people can be happy through living in an illusion. However, this kind of happiness is fragile and can be easily destroyed.

Unfortunately, modern society does not provide a place for everyone. Inevitably, there are those people, often elderly, who become
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She pays attention to the smallest details. "Wasn’t the conductor [of the band in the park] wearing a new coat, too? She was sure it was new. He scraped with his foot and flapped his arms like a rooster about to crow… Now came a little ‘flutey’ bit—very pretty!—a little chain of bright drops. She was sure it would be repeated. It was; she lifted her head and smiled" (98). Even if she’s only an observer, Miss Brill is an involved observer. She draws enjoyment from simply being in the park atmosphere. However, her enjoyment is more than a passing mood. It’s actually an indication of a deeper emotion—a kind of happiness. This becomes clear after Miss Brill has paid close attention to several small exchanges between people at the park. "Oh how fascinating it was! How she enjoyed it! How she loved sitting here, watching it all!" (99). That Miss Brill does not actually participate in anything is clear to the reader, but not to her. Vicarious involvement in other people’s lives seems to be fulfilling for her, even though there is no actual interplay with others. The most telling evidence that Miss Brill is happy (and that her happiness is based on a false impression) is when she comes to the conclusion that she’s somehow needed at the park. "No doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn’t been there; she was part of the performance after all… Miss Brill nearly laughed out loud" (100). This realization eventually moves Miss Brill to
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