How do different techniques help the reader to better understand the outsider theme in Mansfield's "Miss Brill?"

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One way in which the "outsider" theme is brought out is through Mansfield's narration.  Miss Brill is seen as functioning in the world, but she is not a part of it.  She does not interact with anyone or with anything of value.  The narration allows the reader to fully understand that she is an outsider because she lies outside the reach of what is happening in the world.  She moves through with ease, primarily because she is not a member of this world with any relevance.  Another technique used is the dialogue of the young couple in love.  The scorn with which they deride Miss Brill is the first moment in which she is shown to be a part of this world, and that function is an isolated or relegated one.  The theme of the outsider is evident at that point.  I would say that the ending is another instance in which it is clear that Miss Brill is an outsider.  She is not shown to be who fully understands the implications of being on the outside look in, meaning that it is likely to continue.  The fact that Miss Brill blames the fur stole for what the couple said indicates that she is not fully cognizant of her outsider status and this tells the reader that it is not very likely to change as a result of this lack of comprehension.  These techniques advance the theme of alienation and the condition of being an outsider in a specific social setting.

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