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"Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield

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Amanda Simmons

on 20 October 2014

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Transcript of "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield

Presented by: Damien Hill, Amanda Simmons, and Kris Shultz
"Miss Brill"
by Katherine Mansfield

Background
About the Author
Formative Influences
Partners:
Two lesbian relationships - Maata Mahupuku and Edith Kathleen Bendall - which influenced her journals. Continued to have several male relationships throughout her life, and had two affairs.

Spouse:
George Bowden, whom she met at musical parties. They soon divorced from the cause of a second love affair on Katherine's behalf.

Children:
Miscarriage with first child, second child lost through abortion.





Relationships
Her short story "How The Pearl Button Was Kidnapped" was influenced by her view of positivity towards the Maori people, although they were repressed at the time
Development as a Writer
Nationality:
New Zealand
Region:
Traveled from NZ to Great Britain, London, Germany, various parts of Europe
Class:
Grew up in a socially prominent family, middle class
Family:
Daughter of Harold Beauchamp - Knighted Bank Chairman, and also has two older sisters and a younger brother. She had several other siblings that all passed away from disease.

Education:
Queen's College
Travel:
Traveled from NZ to Great Britain, London, Germany, various parts of Europe
Readings:
Ulysses
Main Interests
Themes:
Rejection, Love/Lost Love, Loneliness/Isolation
Characters:
Last name 'Sheridan', strong female leads
Style:
Modernist Mode
Structure:
No specific structure, tends to shift
"Her works, which treat such universal concerns as family and love relationships and the everyday experiences of childhood, are noted for their distinctive wit, psychological acuity, and perceptive characterization." - enotes.com
Critical Response

"Katherine Mansfield is at best a qualified national icon in New Zealand. As an expatriate writing in the London literary world and reflecting European movements of thought she had little connection with early New Zealand writing, which accorded her little recognition."-Roger Robinson, New Zealand Book Council
Public Response
Interesting Facts:
- Mansfield came out as a lesbian in a decade when it was not socially acceptable: 1903

- Experienced a lot of death and disease in her life: first child miscarriage, second child abortion, brothers and sisters died from disease, she lived with tuberculosis, etc.

Literal Meaning
Miss Brill goes to the park to sit on a bench and hear the band play and wears a fur thing around her neck. She likes to watch the people walk by and pretend they are performing in a play for her. Suddenly she thinks that she may be in the play as well. Then, a young couple comes to the park and makes fun of Miss Brill, calling her a "stupid old thing" (Mansfield 208). This ruins her mood and she quickly goes home without taking her usual visit to the bakery, and puts her fur back in it's box. When she did so, "she heard something crying" (Mansfield 208).
Setting
Patterns of Imagery
Characters
Overall Meaning
The following create the image of autumn:

"...the blue sky powdered with gold and great spots of light like white wine..." (Mansfield 203).
"Behind the rotunda the slender trees with yellow leaves down drooping, and through them just a line of sea, and beyond the blue sky with gold-veined clouds" (Mansfield 205).

This quotation unveils the dated time period:

"Two peasant women with funny straw hats passed, gravely, leading beautiful smoke-colored donkeys" (Mansfield 205).
Application of Critical Theory
Works Cited
Miss Brill is an observant person. She is also emotionally fragile.

Miss Brill just wants to be a part of the play, she wants to be loved.

There are not many relationships established between any of the side characters and Miss Brill. In general, it seems they want nothing to do with her.

The narration seems very to the point and matter-of-fact, and doesn't linger on one specific topic for too long.
- Blue and gold sky:
Reminds the reader of the autumn setting and sets a magical tone. Also sets the stage for Miss Brill's play: " It was exactly like a play. Who could believe the sky wasn't painted?" (Mansfield 206).
- The fur:
Represents her self-confidence and imagination
- The band:
Reflects Miss Brill's mood: "But even the band seemed to know what she was feeling and played more softly, played tenderly..."(Mansfield 206).


This story explores the beauty of imagination and self confidence as well as the effects of human condescension on these elements.
The reader is taken on a happy, ethereal journey with Miss Brill, and then it is shattered by one comment.
Miss Brill is watching the crowd with delight, making up a story, but when the couple insults her, she abandons her regular routine and puts the fur back in the box.
Mansfield does not seem to change her writing style in her years as an author. Most, if not all, of her works are written in a modernist style, and her stories are less plot-driven and more character-driven. This is fairly consistent throughout her career, including Miss Brill and the stories that came after.

She started writing short stories in 1908, and continued to write until she died in 1923.
Robinson, Roger. "Entry on Critical Response."
New Zealand Book Council.
Web. October 16th, 2014. <http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writers/mansfieldk.html>
Psychoanalytical Criticism
Since we are inside Miss Brill's world for the duration of the text, her actions are the reader's center focus. Through her activities we learn that she is a joyful woman with profuse imagination. The imagery of the gold and blue clouds reflect her mental state of happiness. The music of the band reflects Miss Brill's mood. The fur symbolizes her imagination and self confidence: putting it on at the beginning of the day, and removing it after the insult.
"Introduction" Short Story Criticism Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg. Vol. 81. Gale Cengage 2005 eNotes.com 16 Oct, 2014 <http://www.enotes.com/topics/katherine-mansfield/critical-essays/mansfield-katherine#critical-essays-mansfield-katherine-introduction>
"Katherine Mansfield".
The Poetry Foundation
. Web. October 16th, 2014. <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/katherine-mansfield>
Discussion Questions
1. How could the fur represent Miss Brill's character?

2. How does the story represent a larger societal context?
Full transcript