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Rethinking Life Decisions in Miss Brill

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I am contrasting Leila from the story “her first ball” and Miss Brill from the story “Miss Brill”. These two characters share similarities as they both look at life in a joyful way, until the cruel world finds a way to spoil it. Leila is a young girl who has led a bit of an isolated life as she grew up as an only child in the countryside with very few friends. She lacks life experience and feels lonely without any siblings to keep her company. Through Leila’s eyes, the whole world seems bright and exciting as she experiences things for the first time. When Leila attends a ball for the first time, her excitement is reflected in her surroundings. Leila looks at everything with a mixture of wonder and fascination. Nothing can escape her eye, including the wisps of tissue paper that her brother removes from his new gloves. Leila is a naïve and innocent girl and finds it hard to keep her thoughts to herself especially when she’s excited. I feel irony for Leila in this story as everything is not happening the way that Leila had imagined it. 

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Miss Brill on the other hand is an old lady who is also lonely like Leila and spends most of her time creating relationships with those she eavesdrops on during her Sundays in the park. Is it as if she has one life in her head and another in reality. She seems to think that she isn’t as old as she says that she has “been an actress for a long time” which isn’t true as she is old now and spends her days in the park alone. The way that Miss Brill and Leila describe things is very similar. For example, when Miss Brill is takes out her fur, she “rubbed the life backed it the dim little eyes” she is speaking to the fur as though it were alive. Moreover, in the story of her first ball, Leila personifies the gas flame that is in the bathroom as dancing, almost as if it were alive. Therefore, we can see that Miss Brill and Leila both have a wild imagination and are both in some ways immature even though Miss brill is quite old, and Leila is trying to grow up. Both Miss Brill and Leila share similarities as they both see life in a hopeful and exciting way. In both of the Katherine Mansfield’s stories a character or someone who isn’t of great importance spoils their joyous mood. In her first ball, the old fat man who is described as “old” and “balding”, tells Leila “long before that you’ll be sitting up there on stage, looking on, in your nice black velvet. 

And these pretty arms will have turned into little short fat ones” (page 119) In the story we can see that the fat man triggered Leila’s fear of growing old. And here we see Leila’s happy mood turn into a melancholic one. In Miss Brill, a youthful couple insult Miss Brill, leaving her in a state of utter devastation. Just like in the story of her first ball, someone has said something to upset them and made them realize their true situation. These two characters are similar in a way that they both look at life in a way that is too wonderful and that everything will be perfect. However, nothing works out that way for them. In the end Miss Brill is back in a state of depression and reached an understanding of her position in life and returned home. Meanwhile as soon as Leila starts to dance again, she gains resilience and her mood becomes happy again.  

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