I am doing paintings on Katherine Mansfield's short stories, "Miss Brill" and "Frau Brechenmacher Attends a Wedding," stories with the themes of isolation and loneliness. What are some ideas on...

I am doing paintings on Katherine Mansfield's short stories, "Miss Brill" and "Frau Brechenmacher Attends a Wedding," stories with the themes of isolation and loneliness.

What are some ideas on what I could paint to show the themes of isolation and loneliness in these stories?

 

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Katherine Mansfield's two stories, "Miss Brill" and "Frau Brechenmacher" certainly illustrate the solitary states of both the main characters. For, these women are alone even when they are surrounded by other people.

In depicting these main characters, rather than placing them in the foreground of the painting, the student can place them in solitary positions, depicting them as diminished in size, as though they are farther away (appearing apart from others) and certainly less significant than others. Also, the use of monochromatic colors for their clothing will separate them from others who are in "living color."

  • "Miss Brill"

There are two scenes that are significant in this story: (1) There is a dejected Miss Brill sitting on the bench with the young lovers, who ridicule her at the other end. Apart from Miss Brill are the others in the audience. (2) In another scene, Miss Brill sits alone in her "little dark room--her room like a cupboard"-- as she places the fur necklet without looking at it inside its box. In the background there can be shadowy rectangular shapes symbolizing the confining life of Miss Brill and in much the same shade as the box of the necklet. 

If there is to be just one scene painted for Miss Brill, then the student can choose one of these, or he/she can depict both with the second image of the other scene done in grey or brown as though in a shadow, behind the first and made smaller to convey the memory of the first scene, or like a double exposure.

  • "Frau Brechenmacher"

There are also two scenes that are significant in this story: (1) Frau Brechenmacher wants to have a good time and escape her humdrum life at the wedding, but when her husband brings their gift to the bride, the young woman screams and slams the teapot shut; then, the groom "dandled these treasures" and the other guests burst into laughter. Of course, Frau Brechenmacher does not find anything funny. Instead, she feels ridiculed.

She wanted to go home again. She imagined that all these people were laughing at her because they were so much stronger than she was.

In order to depict this scene, the student can have the Frau surrounded by people who are laughing as she is shrinks back with a forlorn expression.
(2) At the end of the story, Frau Brechenmacher lies in bed with her arm over her face "like a child who expected to be hurt as Herr Brechenmacher lurched in."

In depicting this scene, the bed can be large and sturdy, the room rather barren otherwise, the colors dim. The Frau could appear diminished as the large, clumsy, husband "lurches" in to please himself with no thought of his wife's feelings. She can be lying on her side with her back to him, the memory of people laughing in soft, subtle depiction above her as though it is in her mind.

 

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Miss Brill

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