A Change in Miss Brill?
Miss Brill in Katherine Mansfield’s “Miss Brill” is a simple, lonely, elderly woman. She is excited and proud of her fur that she has re-awoken from its box, by shaking off the moth powder and giving it a good brush. The fur is beautiful to her, despite its nose needing some touching up. In the short story, she is sitting on a bench in town on a chilly, fall, Sunday, afternoon. She is silently watching the town’s people while the band plays. “There were a number of people out this afternoon, far more than last Sunday. And the band sounded louder and gayer. That was because the Season had begun” (51). Miss Brill believes she is special or different from the rest of the people she sees here and thinks as though, “they’d just come from dark little room or even- cupboards” (52) implying that they are like cookie cutter images, and are not unique. Her life seems nice and purposeful to her. How could she have known that the way she sees herself and others could possibly be changed in an instant that afternoon.
She notices and appreciates small things. She wonders if the conductor of the band was wearing a new coat, and she believed she shared a special seat on the bench with a wealthy elderly couple next to her. She enjoys her life and finds wonder and beauty in everyday things as she watches people pass in front of her.
Miss Brill keeps to herself while she “reads” the people around her. She also enjoys “listening as though she didn’t listen” (51). She is a people watcher who enjoys “sitting in other people’s lives just for a minute while they talked around her” (51). She thinks she is interacting with the people around her this way, though no one speaks to her, or really even notices that she is there.
She notices many things as people pass by; the way they walk, what they are wearing, and how they talk and interact with one another. Yet she, herself, is noticed by no one.
Miss Brill feels as though the events taking...