I would like your thoughts on Mansfield's literary treatment of isolation and alienation in "Miss Brill".

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Through her treatment of her main character, Mansfield is suggesting that there is a great deal of emotional distance and personal isolation in Miss Brill.  Notice her mere name.  We never get to know her first name or any personal details about her that resonate with us some level of intimate connection.  We gain no insight into her family or even any of her passions.  This is because the protagonist lacks these connections, and is emotionally estranged from this aspect of her psychological development.  Miss Brill is isolated from her social setting.  She is a part of it in the park, but completely separate from it.  She believes herself to be an integral part of this setting, but in actuality she is not.  This continues to display Mansfield's development of the alienated theme.  The protagonist is only connected with something outside of herself through her imagination which is not rooted in reality.  She engages in these moments to deny the reality of living in a "cupboard" of a room and in a condition where true understandings of happiness are absent.  Finally, the relationship Miss Brill has with the fur stole is another indication of isolation and alienation.  She transfers emotions onto the object, so much so that the object is asking questions such as "What am I doing here?" and "Why are things they way they are?"  Ironically enough, this is the very same discussion that Miss Brill needs to be having about her own sense of identity.  The object speaks more clearly about such profound issues than the human does.  In the end, the only emotionally profound quotient that Miss Brill reveals is that she hears the fur crying.  This shows a level of emotional connection from which Miss Brill is far alienated and estranged.

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Miss Brill

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