An old lady stuck between the illusion of the real and fantasy world, who views the world as her center stage and creates entertaining characters out of loneliness, encounters the harsh truth of being just a spectator. This article underlines the fascinating summary and analysis of the world of ‘Miss Brill’ written by Katherine Mansfield.
Short stories give a slice of life without explaining too much and with a few sketched characters from the canvas of writer’s mind. The way of storytelling in short stories is entertaining and precisely drive a point into the minds of readers. In this short story, the author Katherine Mansfield depicts the colorful life of ‘Miss Brill’ an elderly woman who relishes her Sunday with animated characters she observes in the park. She draws a thin line between the illusionary world and the reality that she lives and tries to overlook the loneliness that her life creates.
She arrives at the park and takes her usual special seat while enjoying the occasional band playing in the background. Two strangers were sharing her seat today. An old man dressed in velvet coat, his hands clasped over a huge carved walking stick, and an old woman knitting on her embroidered apron. They were engrossed in their own worlds and not speaking to each other. Miss Brill grew a little disappointed, she loved to eavesdrop and hear what people were discussing and this old couple didn’t seem much exciting to her. She reminisced about the Sunday that had gone by and how an Englishman and his wife had shared her special space. They were also not that interesting as the wife talked animatedly about getting new spectacles and the husband giving in suggestions much to the wife’s disapproval. Miss Brill shook her thoughts and concentrated on the other people in the park, to her everyone seemed odd.
She saw two grave-looking peasant women passing by, a pale-faced nun, a beautiful young lady dropping bunch of violets on the ground. As she looked on, the young lady met up with a stern looking gentleman who was puffing cigarette into her face. He didn’t seem to care about the conversation the young lady made with him. After a while they broke off and carried away in their own way with the band music playing up like a march. The old couple sitting beside her left shortly and she noticed how the old man hobbled his way home.
Miss Brill sat fascinated with the fact that there were so many interesting characters to notice and made stories in her head about each of them. She thought of it like a play and her being the center of it all. Just then a young romantic couple made their way to her special seat, they laughed and talked along very much to the pleasure of old Miss Brill. Then the young man asked his lady for a kiss to which she declined with a mock. Angry, the young man whispered a rude comment on how an old lady shared their space without having any company in the park. The young lady mocked Miss Brill further and called her fur hideous. For the first time there was silence in Miss Brill’s world.
On her way home, Miss Brill walked silently past her favorite bakery from where she usually used to buy honey-cake, she used to get delighted if she found an almond in it. But today was just a gloomy day she didn’t feel like buying any special almond treat honey-cake. She reached home and slumped into her dark space. Then opened a box and laid her fur to rest. She thought she heard a cry, a silent cry of her soul.
It is her time-honored recreational activity to watch and hear people converse about their lives, she feels empowered like a director creating their painted characters and assuming the untold stories between them. She is enraged by their pessimistic attitude towards life and wants them to be interesting, just like how she imagines them to be. She tries to find a sense of companionship in all the characters that she sees in the park. The bakery is symbolic to a pleasure retreat and the discovery of an almond in her honey-cake is like magic to her. It makes her happy and she always looks forward to enjoying the small pleasures in life.
She is jolted back to the harsh reality that she shuns away from, when a young couple make mockery out of her existence. In reality she is lonely and the world that she lives in does not see old lonely woman as an attractive companion. Something deep within her is already crying due to a feeling of brokenness, but to the world outside her she is a cheerful old woman with bright tales in her head.
The story talks about human emotions and the generation gap that generally old people experience in their life, many of them are left alone by their children and have no one to talk or spend time with. Hence they live in a world that is filled with imagination.
The short story though humorously written depicts the darker human emotions in life. The quest to stay optimistic in a difficult world and the need to find companionship is brilliantly portrayed.