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Miss Brill Essay, Research Paper

Katherine Mansfield’s short story “Miss Brill” is an extremely good example of how a writer can use different literary aspect to bring about an understanding of Miss Brill the character. The use of literary aspects to reveal some truth about a character to the reader are often referred to as characterization. Three of the most easily recognized affects used in Mansfield’s “Miss Brill” are her use of symbolism, setting, and points of view used by different characters in her story.

Symbolism plays an extremely large part in explaining Miss Brill the character. This can be easily showed by the relationship between Miss Brill and her “alter-ego”; the fur. Miss Brill lives for the days that she spends in the park, this can be seen when she rubs “the life back into [her fur's] dim little eyes”(33). Not only does this quote reveal that the trips to the park “rubs” life back into Miss Brill, but also the condition of the furs eyes might also imply that Miss Brill is not as young and full of life as she once might have been. It seems that Mansfield was deeply trying to convey this bond between Miss Brill and the fur. For example, throughout the story when Miss brill is happy the fur is also happy, and when the fur is insulted then Miss Brill is also insulted. Perhaps the best example of this bond is when Miss Brill is sitting in her cupboard like room and putts her fur away, and thinks that she hears “something crying”(36)

Miss Brill’s “room [is] like a cupboard”(36). This allusion Mansfield gives to Miss Brill’s room is valuable because of two reasons. First, it is a “thread” is sewn into the story in order to keep every vital detail together. This term was first used to describe the odd, funny, old people that Miss Brill perceives in the park “Sunday after Sunday”(34). It does not accure to Miss Brill that she is also one of these “funny old people” , however, Mansfield tells the audience that she is indeed one of these “funny old people” when she describes Miss Brill’s room to the reader. The second reason that this is a valuable quote is that it demonstrates the effect setting can have on the readers opinion to the characters true nature and how one literary aspect can relate to other aspects. The quote referring to Miss Brills cupboard room, also gives the reader a look at the point of view that Miss Brill has. When Miss Brill is happy her room is not so bad, however, when she is depressed then her point of view is that she is like those “funny old people” that she notices in the park every Sunday.

The point of view that is given in Mansfield’s story is that of Miss Brill and that of the young lovers in the park. The point of view that is originally donned by Miss Brill is that she is “an actress”(35). By actress she is referring to theater in the form of life, rather than that of stage. She is a player in the stage of life, a small player, but a player none the least. She is important to the “show” and it could not go on with out her the show would be lacking. Unfortunately, not everyone shares Miss Brill’s enthusiasm for her “part.” The two young lovers for example make the ultimate insult upon Miss Brill. Not only do they criticize Miss Brill’s presence in the park, but they insult Miss Brill’s alter-ego the fur. These two different views of Miss Brill may leave the reader wandering which of these views is more accurate? The obvious answer to this question is “both and neither”; as a noted physicist once said applies to most of the questions that can be asked. This duel answer best suits the question of Miss Brill’s character: the answer is both because both contain basic descriptions of Miss Brill, and the answer is neither because each description is based on the describers own point of view. In the end it is the reader who must create the character Miss Brill, based on the truths presented in the statements made by each.

Mansfield’s “Miss Brill” is an excellent example of how a writer can give understanding of a character through characterization. She does this by allowing the reader to understand Miss Brill through the readers own methods. The most obvious methods that are available to the reader are the characterization methods of symbolism, setting, and points of view used by different characters in her story.


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