Short Fiction

Miss Brill

Told in a modernist, stream-of-consciousness narrative, Miss Brill explores the difference between fantasy and reality. Miss Brill is an English teacher living in France who has limited social contact with the outside world. She puts on a fur necklet and goes to the park to listen to other people’s conversations so that she can fantasize about a reality that protects her from her own. She views life as a form of theater and herself as a spectator. On this particular day in the park, Miss Brill decides that she will become an actor rather than just a spectator. But, shortly after she resolves to become an actor, Miss Brill overhears a young couple mock her and she returns home, rejected and disheartened. This short story explores themes of isolation, rejection, and the loneliness that comes with trying to participate without really risking your own emotions. As a spectator, Miss Brill is not only left out of life but isolated from it. Miss Brill is recognized as Katherine Mansfield’s most famous short story. Its lyrical quality and heart-wrenching story demonstrate the grim reality of what it is like to live in a world that is not protected by illusions.

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