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Katherine Mansfield's Miss Brill Essay

1139 words - 5 pages

“The method a writer takes to bring a character to life” is defined as characterization. "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield displays the character of Miss Brill as the protagonist, confronted with the reality of her existence. In the short story "Miss Brill," by Katherine Mansfield, an elderly woman spends a Sunday afternoon visiting a seaside park as part of her weekly ritual. As a developing character, Miss Brill is forced to face a harsh reality from her routine events. In the short story, "Miss Brill," Katherine Mansfield effectively uses various literary techniques to characterize Miss Brill's complex and interesting character. Mansfield illustrates Miss Brill as an elderly woman in denial from old age and her lack of human interactions. Through the effective use of diction, imagery, and symbolism, Mansfield expresses qualities of Miss Brill as lonely, critical, and fragile.
Miss Brill’s main quality of loneliness is seen through events described by Mansfield. Throughout the short story of “Miss Brill,” it is difficult to understand Miss Brill because she does not understand herself. She has adapted to a routine lifestyle, in which every Sunday she would spend the entire afternoon at the local park in isolation. In her mind, everyone around her is a part of her simple imagination when in fact Miss Brill only sits alone seemingly frantically in search of companionship. “Only two people share her "special" seat: a fine old man in a velvet coat… and a big old woman, sitting upright, with a roll of knitting on her embroidered apron. They did not speak. This was disappointing, for Miss Brill always looked forward to the conversation” (201). Seen through the eyes of Miss Brill, this is a sad and pathetic existence. Mansfield illustrates an image to the reader by depicting Miss Brill’s point of view though her thoughts about the “strangers” around her (200). Miss Brill “sits in other people’s lives,” as she watches her life fly away (201). Mansfield suggests that she finds her life empty, and she finds joy in drama of other people’s lives. Her loneliness was like a bare hole in her heart. Miss Brill seeks out excitement to remove her latent thoughts of her lonely existence. By using the other people at the park, Miss Brill finds a temporary filling for her need of companionship. When Miss Brill speaks about the people around her being in a theatrical production, it makes her “role” in life feel important. (202). “Even she had a part and came every Sunday… she was part of the performance after all” (202). Mansfield acknowledges a method to cope with the struggle towards Miss Brill’s realization that she is not important in society anymore. The use of emotional appeal emphasizes the lonely existence faced in the vision of Miss Brill.
Another key characteristic of Miss Brill is her critical behavior. Miss Brill is extremely observant of the people and the environment in the park. Mansfield proposes her critical trait is related to her...

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