What is a good thesis statment for "Miss Brill"?
One of the best things to focus on in this excellent short story is the way that Mansfield skillfully exposes the perception of Miss Brill as she regards her life and then the reality of her lonely, insignificant life that she almost manages to ignore, until the end of the story. Note that this is achieved through the point of view, which is stream-of-consciousness and follows the thoughts of Miss Brill as she sets off for her afternoon trip to the park and then returns home. Clearly, she is a character who deludes herself about her own significance and importance. Perhaps this is most clearly seen when she imagines that the park, and all the people there, including herself, are part of some dramatic play:
They were all on the stage. They weren't only the audience, not only looking on; they were acting. Even she had a part and came every Sunday. No doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn't been there; she was part of the performance after all.
In Miss Brill's imagination, she is important and has a role, and her absence would be noted. The reality becomes crushingly clear at the end of the story when she returns to "her room like a cupboard" and lets out an involuntary sob. A good thesis statement would therefore be something like:
In "Miss Brill," Mansfield opposes appearances vs. reality to show the intense loneliness of the protagonist.
This thesis statement gives opportunity for the exploration of this theme and how Mansfield resolves the story.
The goal of any strong thesis statement is to concisely make a statement that argues a particular viewpoint. The thesis statement doesn't have to provide any evidence for the statement. That's what the rest of the paper does. For many stories, crafting a thesis statement that analyzes a character or a theme is usually a good starting point. The reason for that is that themes are often supported by characters, and characters often introduce thematic elements to a story. In the case of "Miss Brill," I think a good theme to explore is the theme of loneliness and/or alienation. Miss Brill sits is a very public location, yet she doesn't actually engage anybody in a conversation. She imagines herself a part of the world; however, she doesn't take any action that would further engage herself in her world. A thesis statement for this idea could go something like the following statement: "Although Miss Brill imagines herself as an integral part of the world, her lack of engagement with people in the world actually serves to further alienate herself."
One possible thesis statement you might like to consider is how society often stifles individuality. Miss Brill is nothing if not an individual. Her eccentric dress, the way she devises her own little drama in which real people are the actors, even the way she treats her fox fur as if it were a real creature, all of this suggests someone with a unique personality. Unfortunately for Miss Brill, as countless schoolchildren the world over discover to their cost, society rarely tolerates such expressions of individuality. And the snide remarks that she overhears during her day out at the park are a stark illustration of this. Miss Brill has been put back in her box, so to speak, just as she puts her fox fur back in its box after she returns home to her sad, lonely apartment.