Miss Brill’s Point of View
In Miss Brill by Katherine Mansfield, the author demonstrates how the narrator can describe a character to the audience by using the character’s thoughts. Mansfield uses impartial omniscience in the story by presenting only Miss Brill’s thoughts and actions, giving the reader the opportunity to see the difference between reality and imagination.
Mansfield decides to use a narrator that is intimately close to Miss Brill, someone or something that knows Miss Brill’s steps, likes and dislikes. The audience gets to know Miss Brill through her thoughts; they get to know Miss Brill through her conscience. Her conscience speaks to her and to the reader. It lets everyone knows the setting and what is around her, what is important to Miss Brill like her “fur coat”, and what others think about her “…stupid old thing…” (36).
Mansfield wants the audience to see how an old lonely woman gets happy with the most insignificant things in life. From the narrator perspective, the audience sees Miss Brill’s loneliness and her hunger to find a meaning for her living. The narrator describes Miss Brill’s routine and observations, “Sunday after Sunday, and –Miss Brill often noticed- there was something funny about nearly all of them” (34). The audience can tell that Miss Brill observes and critics others but does not focus on her own self. Miss Brill tries to ignore that she is an elderly woman. When she begins to think of herself as old, she brushes that thought away. She tries to create happiness in every thought or situation. She has tingling in her hands and arms, but says to herself, “It must have been from walking – she supposed.” (33). Miss Brill does not let herself think these thoughts because then that would be evidence to her that she was old. Miss Brill constantly changes her mind when she begins to realize that she is lonely and old.
The story has two narrators, one for the use of Miss Brill to tell herself about the world around her, and another narrator for the audience to see the life that Miss Brill is living. Miss Brill is her own narrator; she wants to make herself believe that she is living in a whole different world. This is the purpose of Mansfield use of point of view, she wants the audience to really live the life of this old woman, to think the way she thinks, to observe what she observes, to create an image with the help of her thoughts. But at the same time, the reader is not only observing what Miss Brill is observing, the reader is actually beginning to get to know Miss Brill through out her thoughts. The reader begins to feel sympathetic towards this character; they begin to see that instead of being a happy woman she is actually lonely and is trying hard to find a meaning for her life.
The story is written in the third person point of view for a purpose: to not show Miss Brill’s fears. Mansfield decides to use Miss Brill’s thoughts as a narrator to hide the real purpose of the story. She wanted to reveal Miss Brill’s character through this point of view to make the story more meaningful. Mansfield decides to keep the point of view limited to Miss Brill and also exclude the others characters thoughts in order for the reader to center all their attention to Miss Brill. The narrator does not judge Miss Brill and does not include his/her thoughts into the story. The narrator focuses just on Miss Brill in order to make the story an effective one. Mansfield wanted to tell the story from a third person narrator to show the difference between Miss Brill’s imagination and the reality of her situation. It is clear that what the narrator is trying to prove how Miss Brill uses her imagination to hide some of the pain that reality might have caused her. For example, on page 36, Miss Brill states that everything was “a play”, that she plays “an important role in the play” and that she has been “an actress for a long time”. This demonstrates how Miss Brill wants to find any way to believe that she is still useful and important to someone.
Mansfield successfully uses the third person omniscient point of view. She shows how Miss Brill was trying to hide her loneliness without feeling sympathy for her own self. The use of creating illusions also contributed to the story since it was another method to hide Miss Brill true emotions. At the end, Miss Brill faces reality and the narrator creates a distance from her in order to show Miss Brill point of view and so the reader is able to know her thoughts and feelings from her own self.