Miss Brill: An Insignificant Soul
Every Sunday, Miss Brill looked forward to a wonderful day in the park. There, she would secretly dive into the lives of the surrounding human beings, taking in each of their words and actions and creating a fantasy world all of her own that she was sure she belonged in, but she was mistaken. Her fantasy world does crumble, and Miss Brill, the protagonist in the short story, “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield, soon finds herself in reality. Miss Brill can be clearly seen as a flat, yet dynamic character, as can be portrayed through her thought transformation.
“Miss Brill was glad that she had decided on her “fur” for that Sunday afternoon in the park. Her little friend she wore around her neck would be the perfect companion to enjoy such a beautiful day. After going to the park and sitting down, Miss Brill wishes to talk with the other people sitting about, but they never make a sound, though after this she admits to listening to their conversations. “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.” Within moments, Miss Brill is commenting on other people: The old people who sat on the benches like statues, the little children running here and there, a beautiful woman accidentally dropping violets on the floor, and once a little boy picks them up and tries to give them back to her, she throws them away with disgust. Commenting on the other people sitting on the benches, watching the people (just as Miss Brill is doing) Miss Brill says, “…there was something funny about nearly all of them. They were odd, and from the way they stared they looked as though they’d just come from dark little rooms or even—even cupboards!” Miss Brill is in such denial; she doesn’t even realize that she, like them, is living her own life through these innocent bystanders.
The reason why Miss Brill lives her life through others is because she is scared to take risks. Why she won’t take risks is not given, but most would assume that perhaps something psychologically damaging had happened to Miss Brill when she was a child or young woman that left her obstinate as to changing her life. Her life stopped, yet she continued to live through other people around her.
This choice of Miss Brill’s has left her lonely and somewhat delusional. It’s these two main characteristics of Miss Brill that make her flat. If the author had perhaps included some background on why Miss Brill is who she is, the...