Critical Overview

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Mansfield is one of only a few writers to gain critical prominence on the basis of her short stories alone; she published no novels during her short lifetime. Though published widely while she was still alive, her literary reputation was permanently established after her death with the publication of her collected letters and correspondence. In The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, the author gives readers insight into the way in which she constructed "Miss Brill": "I choose the rise and fall of every paragraph to fit her.… After I'd written it I read it aloud—numbers of times—just as one would play over a musical composition—trying to get it nearer and nearer to the expression of Miss Brill—until it fitted her." "Miss Brill" has always been on of Mansfield's most popular stories. Clare Hanson and Andrew Gurr argue in their book Katherine Mansfield that Miss Brill is more than a characterization of a lonely spinster: "In Mansfield's view we are all ultimately solitary, and human beings are fundamentally cruel and indifferent to one another except in the rare instances where they love. Without love, and without the comfort of illusions, the reality of life can be grim indeed." They further note that "Miss Brill" has often been regarded as a moral, even as a sentimental story. Echoing the opinion of many critics, Robert L. Hull's essay in Studies in Short Fiction states that "[t]he principle theme of Katherine Mansfield's 'Miss Brill' is estrangement."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Essays and Criticism