Discussion Topic

Miss Brill's enjoyment of her Sundays in the park


Miss Brill enjoys her Sundays in the park because they provide a break from her lonely, small-room existence. She delights in dressing up, observing people, and listening to the band. She imagines herself as part of a play, enhancing her sense of belonging. However, her enjoyment masks underlying sadness and loneliness, which is starkly revealed when a young couple mocks her, shattering her illusion.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What excites Miss Brill about sitting in the park?

Miss Brill lives in a very small room and has very little money, so she finds it exciting to get out into the sunshine and fresh air and to see other people at the park, even if she doesn't know them. She enjoys getting dressed up for her outing to the Jardins Publiques, such as by putting on her fox collar, and she likes listening to the band that plays in the park. It is a pleasure for her to watch the people passing by and see the children playing. She also likes to listen to the conversations people sitting near her have.

She finds exciting, too, the sense she has of being a character in a play that is performed every Sunday. She likes the idea that she is not just part of an audience watching what is going on, but a participant in a recurring drama.

However, there are hints all along that Miss Brill is working very hard to repress the fact that she is sad, poor, and lonely. She stops herself and changes her internal narrative every time the word sad comes rising up to her mind. For example, when the band begins to play again after a break, she starts to think there is something sad in the music, but then says to herself, "no, not sadness." Yet eventually, reality will intrude on Miss Brill's fantasy.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What attracts Miss Brill to the park every Sunday?

In the story "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield, the main character of the same name is a governess or teacher, an expatriate from Britain living in France, who takes a special pleasure in taking Sunday strolls.

We do not know a lot of information about Miss Brill, other than what she does for a living, and what she feels at the moment of her walks. It is only through that information that we can merely make assumptions as to what exactly takes her there every Sunday. Yet, the little information that we get allows us to get a glimpse into the mind and soul of Miss Brill.

Oh, how fascinating it was! How she enjoyed it! How she loved sitting here, watching it all! It was like a play. It was exactly like a play. Who could believe the sky at the back wasn't painted? ......They were all on 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.

From this excerpt we can see how Miss Brill is a woman who has not had an opportunity to discover her true self, or herself as a woman. She lives in the moment and with the moment. The walk in the park would be the most cherished of all of those small moments that make up her life.

It is also arguable that Miss Brill simply wants to be a part of "something" since she is not really a part of anything: She is not a wife, nor a mother; Her only company is her fur, to which she speaks as if it were a real pet. Moreover, she is not even in her own country, so he perhaps cannot be a part of the up and going French society. To add to the oddity, she  considers the regular pace of life a "theater" that she gets to watch as if it were a show. This shows a person who is quite removed from the everyday reality of things and has created a world of her own. One world quite separated from the world of others.

How strange she'd never thought of it like that before! And yet it explained why she made such point of starting from home at just the same time each week–so as not to be late for the performance–and it also explained why she had a queer, shy feeling at telling her English pupils how she spent her Sunday afternoons. No wonder!

Therefore, Miss Brill has separated herself from the rest of the world in such a way that she refers to herself as a sort of narrator, or character, within the greater scope of things. This is not the behavior of a person who leads a healthy social nor personal life. Miss Brill is not a person who acts normally.

It is in the end of the story, when the young French couple laughs at her and basically "run her out of the park" is when reality sinks and Miss Brill, perhaps, understands the real role of her life to her possible dismay.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why does Miss Brill enjoy her Sundays in the park?

The main reason why Miss Brill enjoys her Sundays in the park is because this type of distraction is the sole medium by which the expatriate English teacher, who lives alone, has a chance to feel as a part of a bigger society. Aside from her Sundays at the park, she leads an otherwise dull existence, and a very lonely one, at that.

When Miss Brill goes to the park, she does not just go to rest and enjoy the view. She has made it a habit to people watch. More than that, she actually assigns roles to the people whom she watches. Doing this, she feels as if she knows them, and that she can approach them. This is something she would not be able to do otherwise.

And then she too[...]and the others [...]would come in with a kind of accompaniment–[...]. And Miss Brill's eyes filled with tears and she looked smiling at all the other members of the company. Yes, we understand, we understand, she thought[...]

The thing is that Miss Brill has taken this habit too much to heart. She sees the people in the park as actors in a huge play. She sees herself as part of the scenery, and this is what makes her so emotional about the whole thing: she finally gets to be a part of the world, in her terms.

So strong is her attachment to the fantasy, that she does not ever realize how strange she looks like in the eyes of the world, or how odd the whole thing is. We are never told, as readers, whether Miss Brill even acknowledges herself as it is; whether she recognizes her awkwardness. So detached is she, that she even "hears something crying" when she has to rush home after hearing the young couple laugh at her and her "old smug". Especially, when they laughed at her beloved fur. 

Therefore, the Sunday trips are mental escapades for Miss Brill. In them, she gets to be whoever she wants, and feel freely accepted by the rest of the world around her. We are hinted that she is, perhaps, taking this habit too seriously, and becoming too attached to it. The crying at the end shows us that her fantasy has finally cost her a fragment of her pride and dignity, after all.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why does the main character in the short story "Miss Brill" go to the park on Sundays? How does she feel when she is there?

Miss Brill, a British expatriate who teaches English in France, leads quite a lonesome life in her adopted country. From what the reader learns,  Miss Brill has made a habit of going to the public gardens on Sundays to watch people. 

While she is there, she uses her imagination to give character traits to everyone that she sees there. She compares this experience to going to the theater; she makes up stories using the people whom she sees, pretends to know them, and engages in an active, imaginary storytelling with herself. 

How she enjoyed it! How she loved sitting here, watching it all! It was like a play. It was exactly like a play. Who could believe the sky at the back wasn't painted? [...]They were all on stage. [...]they were acting. Even she had a part and came every Sunday.

As you can see, Miss Brill's only connection with the mainstream of society is through her imagination. She has made small connections through her job as a teacher, as a reader, and maybe even at her boarding house. However, the big society that looms in the horizon is way too big for someone who is obviously so little prepared to deal with the real world. 

Therefore, the main reason why Miss Brill goes to the public gardens is, first of all, out of habit; she has made it her sole and most significant form of entertainment. Second, because she gets to enter the "real world" through a fantasy. Third, because it soothes what is definitely a terrible loneliness.

She feels happy and part of something real. It is, perhaps, a safe way to be "alone, together". For some people this may seem awkward. However, there are many people just like Miss Brill who fear the sacrifices and risks that come with making human connections. 

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
Last Updated on