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What three points could provide an argument for the theme of epiphany in Katherine...

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pavdichuk | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 2, 2011 at 12:55 PM via web

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What three points could provide an argument for the theme of epiphany in Katherine Mansfield's "Miss Brill"?

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted November 4, 2011 at 12:17 PM (Answer #1)

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It seems a bit out of place to describe "Miss Brill" in terms of epiphany when Miss Brill encounters crushing truth. A more apt thematic description would be cruel brush with reality as illustrated by the encounter between the four girls walikng abreast and the old man:

such a funny old man with long whiskers hobbled along in time to the music and was nearly knocked over by four girls walking abreast.

Epiphanies are defined as flashses of inspiration that lead to higher understanding, avenues of creativity, spiritual awarenss, and profound realization: these are all meant in a forward-moving progressive sense. Miss Brill's realization, understanding, and awareness sent her spiraling backward, stole her dream, robbed her courage, shattered her hope, her happiness, her bouyant life in rough weather that had confined her life to one room, a red silk eiderdown, and a fur necklet with cute little eyes--little eyes that never were heard to seem to cry until her realization. The other incidents similarly fit better with a cruel brush with reality than with epiphany, such as the beautiful woman who throws her violets away as though they'd been poisoned and the man who blows cigarette smoke in the face of the lady who was so delighted to see him then walks away to the drum beat of "The Brute! The Brute!"

Having made this argument, some passages may be interpreted as pertaining to epiphany. Returning to the beautiful lady and the violets, it may be inferred that she has had an epiphany (of the non-classic negative kind) in relation to the gentleman who gave her the gift of the violets (symbols of affection and love). Her epiphany has led her to reject his proposal of affection and future happiness. Two other pieces of textual evidence for the theme of epiphany involve Miss Brill herself.

One instance of textual evidence for a sudden realization is that Miss Brill walks right past the bakery without stopping to get her honey-cake--with the almond today?

On her way home she usually bought a slice of honey-cake at the baker's. ... there was an almond in her slice, sometimes not.

But to-day she passed the baker's by ...

The ultimate textual evidence comes at the end of the story. Miss Brill enters her single room in the dark and sits down on her red silk eiderdown and hastily removes her beloved little fur necklet to throw it hurriedly into its storage box. When she closes the lid quickly, she seems to hear the fur crying:

The box that the fur came out of was on the bed. She unclasped the necklet quickly; quickly, without looking, laid it inside. But when she put the lid on she thought she heard something crying.

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