In-depth analysis of some of the most popular short stories including summaries, character analysis, narrative technique, symbolism and much more.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Narrative Technique: Miss Brill

Narrative Technique Miss Brill
Narrative Technique Miss Brill

The Narrative Technique used by Katherine Mansfield is known as a stream of consciousness, where the narrator has access to the thoughts of  the character, and is able to see and experience the world, in exactly the same manner the character does. Katherine Mansfield's use of this narrative technique is particularly unique, as Miss Brill's thoughts and opinions alone do not present an accurate picture of who she is, and how the world sees her. The narrative is aided by the use of other devices such as symbols, personification, and juxtaposition of characters. Her fox fur communicates her confusion about her emotional state, and her refusal to come to terms with it. She identifies with the fox fur only as far as she believes that it represents her importance to those around her. The  fox fur is the only thing that speaks in the first person (as well as the first time we see Miss Brill use the first person is while interacting with the fur), and is the first device in the narrative that gives us the idea that Miss Brill may not be as comfortable with herself as her stream of thoughts suggest.

The stream of consciousness as used by Katherine Mansfield is particularly interesting. We are able to paint an accurate picture of Miss Brill, through her opinions of those around her. Those views are then juxtaposed against the true identity of Miss Brill. For example Miss Brill tries to separate herself from the people in the park she finds uninteresting, and describes the old people as looking as if they came from "cupboards". Miss Brill's room is later compared to being "like a cupboard", and from this we learn that Miss Brill too is an old woman. Her keen interest in the ermine toque, the ermine toque's interaction with a "man in grey" and her eventual rejection by this man, compares with Miss Brill's own experience of rejection later in the plot. 

The effect of the music in the park also aids the narrative. The music, Miss Brill believes, moves along with the events as if it is a soundtrack or a key piece of her amazing production. She tries very hard to identify with the tunes, and thinks that on that particular Sunday "the band sounded louder and gayer." When the band repeated the "'flutey' bit" she "lifted her head and smiled." The music, however, has nothing to do with Miss Brill's true emotions. She notes that the band played differently because there were now strangers around (Miss Brill visits the park every Sunday), so while Miss Brill clearly cared for the band and the music, it didn't care for her. Also once she has her encounter with the young couple who mocks her presence, we hear nothing of the music or the band again.

All these devices are an highly effective aid to the telling of the story (narrative technique), without which we would be left to believe Miss Brill's version of her life.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much indeed! it was very helpful in making a difficult story understandeable. Great!