What is the style used by Mansfield in her story "Miss Brill"?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In her short story "Miss Brill," Katherine Mansfield uses these literary techniques:

  • Stream of Consciousness

Most interestingly, in her short story, Katherine Mansfield employs a strange stream-of-consciousness with her protagonist Miss Brill.  For, even though the plot is revealed through the medium of interior monologue, Miss Brill never expresses any of her thoughts about her own life; instead the stream of consciousness in told from third-person point of view. And, so, ironically the personal thoughts of the protagonist are not divulged in her own mind, suggesting Miss Brill's terrible alienation, even from herself.

  • Symbolism

Instead, Mansfield reveals her main character through symbolism. For instance, Miss Brill's old fur serves well to represent Miss Brill, who like the fur taken from its box, leaves her "little cupboard" of a room. When she returns after having heard the mocking remarks of the young couple behind her at the concert, Miss Brill takes off the fur and "quickly, quickly," without looking at it, replaces the fur piece in its box, an act which symbolizes her refusal to recognize how she actually seems to others.  Nevertheless, when the fur is in its box and Miss Brill "thought she heard something crying," Mansfield symbolizes the loneliness and alienation that Miss Brill experiences. 

  • Setting

Connotative of her alienation, the setting of the concert that Miss Brill attends is the Jardins Publiques in France. And, although the blue sky is "powdered with gold and great spots of light," there is a "faint chill" in the still air. And, while it is sunny at the concert, Miss Brill's little "cupboard" is a "little dark room." These details of chilly air and darkness suggest Miss Brill's loneliness and disassociation from other people, even though she deceptively imagines them in a play together with her.

Read the study guide:
Miss Brill

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