Often one’s perception of life is not a completely accurate one. Such is true in Katherine Mansfield’s short story, “Miss Brill.” Miss Brill is an eccentric lady that believes that her role in this life is larger than it actually is. She lives vicariously through the conversations of those around her, inserting herself into their lives. She is mostly ignored, but one young couple makes note of her existence. Their harsh comments open Miss Brill’s eyes to the reality that she is simply not that important to those around her. Although seemingly self-confident, she is made aware of her detached perception of reality and in an instant, her entire world is radically shifted.
Miss Brill seems to have her act together. She is a pleasant lady, with a routine that she operates comfortably in. Her actions involving the fur speak of her self-confidence. She carefully removes the rogue from its box and fluffs its fur, brushing off the moth powder. She truly believes that she is high-class in donning this accessory. “And when she breathed, something light and sad-no, not sad, exactly-something gentle seemed to move in her bosom” (175). Miss Brill walks to the Jardins Publiques, taking in the sights and sounds all around her. She is a part, a valuable part, of this grand production. She continues to her “special seat” and listens to the conversations around her.
Miss Brill enjoys listening, without their knowledge, to the people coming and going. “She had become really quite expert, she thought, at listening as though she didn’t listen, at sitting in other people’s lives just for a minute while they talked around her” (176). Through the lives of others, she escapes the reality of her own life. Miss Brill is trapped in a mundane, routine existence that she longs to break free from. Instead of coming to terms with the truth of her life and responding to it, she loses herself in the lives of others. She also fools herself into thinking...