Illusion vs. Reality in Miss Brill
"Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield is set the Jardins Publiques in France. Every Sunday Miss Brill looks forward to getting dressed up and visiting the park, where she enjoys people watching. Her weekly visits to the park are undoubtedly the highlight of her week, bringing her great joy and satisfaction. There are many illusions in this story, in this essay I intend to show three different illusions Miss Brill uses to make herself happy and how her reality is shattered at the end of the story by a chance remark.
Miss Brill's first illusion is her fur, which she thinks of as being alive. Mansfield writes, "Dear little thing! ...and rubbed the life back into the dim little eyes. `What has been happening to me?'" (Mansfield 121). Miss Brill sees the fur as being alive when she rubs the fur back to life and when the fur speaks to her. There is further evidence of Miss Brill's illusion when she refers to the fur as a "Little rouge! ...She could have taken it off and laid it on her lap and stroked it"(121). Through Miss Brills actions, it seems almost as if she thinks of the fur as a pet. The truth is the fur is not alive and it cannot speak nor have life rubbed back into it.
Miss Brill's second illusion is that through her observations and eavesdropping she feels that she has many connections with the outside world. Mansfield writes, ."..for Miss Brill always looked forward to the conversation. She had become really 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" (122). For instance, she is let down by the couple she is sitting next to on the bench because "They did not speak" (122); as a result, this leaves her feeling disappointed because this is one of the ways she interacts with the outside world.
Miss Brill soon observes a lady and a gentleman having a brief encounter in the park, and she imagines what is being said on between the couple. Through this encounter one sees that Miss Brill is living vicariously through the people in the park to fulfill her loneliness. Miss Brill's voyeurism leaves her feeling as though she has interactions with these people; this, in turn, leaves her happy and fulfilled. The truth is she is a very lonely person looking to fill her time in the park with imagined relationships.
Miss Brill's third illusion is that she thinks of herself as "an actress"(123) in a play....