Mansfield’s work is a constant inspiration in her writing, and she is an active member of the Katherine Mansfield Society.She is interested in writing as a tool for growth and healing and is training to be a Writing for Wellbeing facilitator.For me, this essay is an illuminating and humane piece in its own right – the best kind of literary analysis.
Miss Brill’s humiliation is complete, and she retires to her own ‘room like a cupboard’ and shuts away her sad fur stole, with only the sound of crying left in the ‘little dark room’.
When I first read this story it immediately struck a chord, because I have always felt an affinity with older people.
Miss Brill endows her inanimate fur with life, describing it as a ‘little rogue biting its tail’.
Decked out in her fading finery, Miss Brill makes her weekly visit to a public park, in an unnamed French town, to hear the band play.
Is the reason she empathises so vividly with Miss Brill’s predicament because of her own experiences of being chronically ill?
In November 1920, when Mansfield wrote ‘Miss Brill’, she was living at the Villa Isola Bella in Menton, France.
’ Miss Brill observes, with pity, as an old woman in an ermine toque is publically humiliated, unaware that she and this woman actually share much in common.
Avoiding an opportunity for self awareness, Miss Brill fantasises that the scene before her is ‘exactly like a play’ and concludes that they are all on stage and that she is an actress, with an important role to play in proceedings.
Because of her deteriorating health, Mansfield often had to live apart from her husband John Middleton Murry, and in the long stretches of time spent away from him, she would usually write him a special ‘Sunday letter’.
In one such letter, written in September 1920, she imagines that she and her husband ‘walk out together every single Sunday’, escaping the confines of her limited life to disappear ‘out of sight of the world’.