Miss Brill: Emphasis on Loneliness and Isolation

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Catherine Mansfield’s short story “Miss Brill” first appeared in 1922 highlighting the unpleasant feelings of loneliness and isolation among elderly persons by skillfully using different locations and physical settings in the story. The author competently displays the plot of the story with an organized unfolding of events revolving around the protagonist of the story. Miss Brill is the leading character of the short narrative. She is pictured as an alienated, old woman on one of her regular warm Sunday afternoons, which she spends in a local park in France. In the “Miss Brill”, the author describes the events occurring in Miss Brill’s presence in Jardins Publiques and the imagination of the protagonist picturing the people in the park as actors in a theatrical play. The author masterly uses the locations in the story and she compares Miss Brill’s room to a tiny, dark cupboard to describe the loneliness in Miss Brill’s life.

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At the opening of the story, Miss Brill is pictured as sitting in the Jardins Publiques in France, which is presumably a public garden because Jardins Publiques refers to a public park in French, and she finds great pleasure in wearing her fur. Although Miss Brill views it as a cool midday it is a pleasant and warm Sunday afternoon while the air is described as motionless and the environs of the story indicates that it is the beginning of the Spring season. The public garden is packed and there are more people in the park than there were on the last Sunday afternoon. The band is extremely zealous at the commencement of the season. The people in the park are walking or sitting beside Miss Brill on the table and they are having conversations. Miss Brill does not communicate with other people around her, but she keenly listens to their discussions.

At this point in time, Miss Brill notices the activities of her fellow people in the park, watches them walking around and enjoys the music played by the band in the garden. She notices that majority of the people in that park are old and they are purchasing flowers from an old beggar. She ponders her believe of the old people in the park coming from a small, unlit room. Miss Brill then begins to imagine the people in the park as actors in a play, including herself. She thinks that each person is playing a vital role in this theatrical play and that she is playing her important part too. Miss Brill imagines the attractive, young couple sitting beside her on the bench in the garden as the hero and heroine of the play. They are well dressed and good-looking. The couple make rude remarks about Miss Brill. They mock her by calling her stupid and they poke fun at her fur. She appears to be hurt by their unpleasant words. She is downhearted and miserable.

Furthermore, on every regular Sunday afternoon, Miss Brill stops by the baker’s to purchase a slice of honeycake as her Sunday treat while on her way back home. The presence of an almond in her cake slice exerts a great influence on her as a slice with almond is perceived as a little gift that she carries back to her home. On that specific Sunday afternoon, Miss Brill does not stop by the baker’s for her treat and instead she returns to her home directly. She skips the simple pleasure of her Sunday treat’s bite on that afternoon. Perhaps she feels dejected and disheartened by the impolite behaviour of the young couple in the park.

Miss Brill arrives at her home and she goes back to her tiny, dark room. The author compares her room to a little, ill-lit cupboard which signifies that it is a tight, unilluminated space. Miss Brill cries after she returns, and it depicts that she is extremely hurt by the harsh words of the couple. Moreover, as she formerly mentions that the old people in the park seem to come from a tiny room or may be a dark cupboard suggesting that they might feel lonesome, in spite of the fact that Miss Brill is just like the elderly persons in the park. She lives in a cupboard like small room and she is old, lonely, isolated and alienated.

Conclusively, the author Catherine Mansfield describes Miss Brill’s feelings of loneliness and isolation by portraying the protagonist’s regular, pleasant and warm Sunday afternoon in the Jardins Publiques. The author expertly makes use of the park setting to reflect the protagonist’s imaginative thoughts relating to the people around her and the resemblance between the lives of Miss Brill and the old people in the local park. Catherine Mansfield presents Miss Brill’s imagination of her fellow people in the public garden as actors in a theatrical performance who play their significant roles in the play. As per her point of view, she also plays a vital part in that play and she imagines the young couple in the park as the stars of this play, although she feels sad by their rude statements about her. Miss Brill returns to her home without having her Sunday treat at the bakery because she feels hurt. The author describes Miss Brill’s room as a mini and gloomy cupboard revealing that the old people in the park are just like her who seemingly come from a similar tiny room. Therefore, the author uses the location of the public garden and the room in Miss Brill’s home as a symbol to describe her feelings of alienation and isolation. Catherine Mansfield penned down the short story “Miss Brill” to reflect the unpleasant emotions of rejection, unhappiness, solitude and seclusion in the lives of elderly by deploying Miss Brill’s character in her short story and she utilizes various physical settings and locations to represent the plot of the story in a competent way (Mansfield).

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