What are some examples of imagery in "Miss Brill"?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Katherine Mansfield's short story "Miss Brill" is rife with imagery. Imagery involves the description of everything in enough detail so that the senses of the reader become stimulated and a clear picture of the author's idea can be created.

In "Miss Brill" the author describes things by assigning them the names of other things. This is known as metaphor.

  • Although it was so brilliantly fine - the blue sky powdered with gold
  • Now there came a little "flutey" bit - very pretty! - a little chain of bright drops

Mansfield also describes things by comparing them, this is known as simile.

  • great spots of light like white wine splashed over the Jardins Publiques
  • The air was motionless, but when you opened your mouth there was just a faint chill, like a chill from a glass of iced water before you sip

These two examples stimulate the senses by conveying the visual of the color of wine, as well as the coldness of a glass of iced water. This is done to help the readers picture in their minds how this particular day, one which Miss Brill cherishes particularly, is beautiful and bright. Similes are also used to describe some of the people at the gardens.

  • The old people sat on the bench, still as statues.

Yet the two of the most salient uses of imagery in "Miss Brill" are personification and characterization. Personification means the adhering of human qualities to something that is not human. Characterizing is the direct and indirect description of a character.

Through the characterization of Miss Brill, we get to understand her poise, her manners, her tendencies, and even her emotional profile before, during, and after her day at the gardens.Characterization is also used consistently throughout the story to describe the people visiting the park. In this story, characterization is of particular importance because its main idea is to describe down to the very last detail everything that Miss Brill observes every Sunday. Since Miss Brill is an extremely observant woman, it is imperative that the technique of characterization is employed so that Miss Brill can express her views and thoughts of the people; she is even quite descriptive of the man to whom she reads the newspaper at the park

  • She had got quite used to the frail head on the cotton pillow, the hollowed eyes, the open mouth and the high pinched nose.

Personification is mostly used to describe Miss Brill's walking companion: the fur. Notice how, from the moment that Miss Brill takes it out of it box, she awards human qualities to this inanimate object that serves no other purpose than to decorate her outfit; and yet, this very same object is given such an importance that it basically becomes a secondary character in the story.

[she] rubbed the life back into the dim little eyes. "What has been happening to me?" said the sad little eyes. Oh, how sweet it was to see them snap at her again from the red eiderdown...

These techniques certainly connect the reader to the main character, building the empathy and sympathy that characterizes a good reading interaction. This is what makes this story so effective in conveying its main idea.

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