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How is "Miss Brill" an example of Modernist writing?

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shootingstarz | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 3, 2011 at 9:22 PM via web

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How is "Miss Brill" an example of Modernist writing?

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 3, 2011 at 9:55 PM (Answer #1)

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"Miss Brill" is an example of modernist writing in a couple of ways.  One of the ways it represents modernism is that it reflects the alienation and isolation of the individual from a social setting.  One of the critical elements of modernism is the idea that individuals can be separated from their social surroundings.  Miss Brill is not a part of the world that she believes herself to be.  She is not an active agent of this world, but rather one who is isolated and marginalized from it.  Miss Brill does not even realize that this is happening to her, thinking that somehow she is the conductor of this great symphonic recognition of social awareness.  When Virgina Woolf writes that an integral part of Modernism is the "shifting of human relations," she has articulated Miss Brill's predicament.  Miss Brill has experienced a fundamental shift of human emotions and relations when she is mocked by the young couple at the end of the story.  The "shifting" that has transpired is one where Miss Brill is on the fringes of this social order, contributing to her alienation.  Like many Modernist texts, there is no reconciliation at the end of the story.  There is little in way of unity, as Miss Brill has not been able to appropriate any sort of truth or transcendent understanding about her predicament.  Instead, she blames the fur stole for what happened.  In this, there is a modernist tendency present to reject unity and symmetry in favor of disunity and a sense of loss in human consciousness.

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