Miss Brill


Title: Miss Brill

Writer: Katherine Mansfield

Publishing House: Penguin Classics

Date of Publication: February 26th 2015 (first published 1920)

Rating: 5 stars

‘’God forbid, my darling, that I should be a drag on your happiness.’’

Marriage a la Mode: The loving relationship of a young married couple changes when Isabel falls under the influence of a horrible woman who believes that love is weakness and a hurdle to emancipation. But neglecting your children, desiring riches and servants, and ridiculing your husband by parading your lovers inside the house HE paid for isn’t emancipation. It’s malice and ignorance. If I were William, I’d give her a good piece of my mind…Mansfield’s elegant satire demonstrates everything that is wrong with labels and extremes.

‘’Although it was so brilliantly fine – the blue sky powdered with gold spots of light like white wine splashed over the Jardins Publiques – Miss Brill was glad that she had decided on her fur.’’

Miss Brill: An elderly woman visits the park and watches as life and its ‘’occupants’’ pass her by. Almost imprisoned in her own notions of luxury, propriety and dignity, she fails to notice that the world has changed. A young couple forces her to come to terms with the ‘’modern times’’ that show how respect and politeness have to make way for a ‘’new’’ way of thinking aka. disrespecting everything and everyone.

‘’It seemed to the little crowd on the wharf that she was never going to move again. There she lay, immense, motionless on the grey crinkled water, a loop of smoke above her, an immense flock of gulls screaming and diving after the galley droppings at the stern. You could just see little couples parading – little flies walking up and down the dish on the grey crinkled tablecloth. Other flies clustered and swarmed at the edge. Now there was a gleam of white on the lower deck – the cook’s apron or the stewardess perhaps. Now a tiny black spider raced up the ladder on the bridge.’’

The Stranger: A woman returns to Auckland from Europe. Her husband anxiously awaits for her but all changes when she narrates the tragic death of a stranger in her arms. The green-eyed monster has appeared in a corner of the hotel room and her husband doesn’t seem to ignore it.

Katherine Mansfield’s commentary on relationships, social norms, and the fads of her era is relevant to our modern societies, a time when every kind of proportion, measure and decency has gone down the drain…