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In "Miss Brill" does the protagonist come to a realization about her life and habits,...

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mrmck595 | eNoter

Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:08 PM via web

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In "Miss Brill" does the protagonist come to a realization about her life and habits, or does she manage to suppress the truths that have been presented to her?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:30 PM (Answer #1)

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Paradoxically Katherine Mansfield employs stream-of-consciousness in her protagonist, yet at no time do Miss Brill's inner thoughts reveal what she thinks of herself. In commenting upon her character, Mansfield states, "one must declare one's love," since meaning depends upon sharing. Unfortunately, however, Miss Brill's declaration that the audience and she are all players on the stage of life is unexpressed to any but herself.  Therefore, she remains alone and alienated in her "vision of love," as Robert Hull remarks in his essay on the theme of estrangement in "Miss Brill."

Alone in a foreign society, Miss Brill deceives herself by imagining "something gentle" moving her with the cool air and with all who attend the concerts. Further, she deceives herself about her "special seat" that she "shares" with an older man and a large older woman. Ironically for Miss Brill, her thought that "[I]t was exactly like a play" carries another significance for her than what she imagines because she does not interact with the others who have come to the concert.  Moreover, she sits alone, thinking "we understand," although "what they understood she didn't know."

Thus alienated, Miss Brill returns home after having heard the girl at the concert giggle about her fur that is like "fried whiting." Sadly, when she returns home--"her room like a cupboard"--she symbolically lays her fur back into its old box, thinking "she heard something crying." While Miss Brill appears to suppress the truth about her existence in this act, there are yet subtle suggestions that she does realize her alienation.  For, she forgoes her usual stop at the baker's and returns to her lonely, dark room only to sit "for a long time" before hastily closing the fur piece in its box.

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