Symbolism in “Miss Brill” Written by Katherine Mansfield: Example of an Essay
There are not many vivid symbols in the story of Katherine Mansfield “Miss Brill”. The most significant of them belong to Miss Brill’s daily routine.
The park bench is one of the few places where Miss Brill spends her time. The reason why she does so is not merely to breathe in some fresh air and drink in nature. She is full of hopes that someone will come to her and will start a conversation with her. However, it never happens, and she is in a bit of despair as she is looking forward to communicating with someone. Thus, the bench symbolizes hope that something Miss Brill wants so eagerly will happen. At the same time, Miss Brill does not regard the bench to be a sign of despair or disappointment (personally for her). Benches in the park are also popular among some elderly people, whom Miss Brills regards to come from dark places.
The bench symbolizes not only hope and the process of waiting for something for long but also the place where Miss Brill can get to know some secrets or thoughts of other people. When coming to sit on the bench, Miss Brill enjoys eavesdropping on what others are talking about. It is evident that such interest in others’ conversations and lifestyles makes the life of Miss Brill more interesting.
The fur that Miss Brill wears symbolizes both herself and her so-called companion. It is not new – obviously, it has been worn dozens of time before. Miss Brill refers to the fur as male and calls it a rogue. This is an indication that she needs someone significant in her life and longs for some excitement. The fur stands for someone who accompanies her to the park. Besides, the “life” of the fur bears a strong similarity to Miss Brill’s life. Upon returning home, the fur is put into the closet, where it laments, whereas Miss Brill returns to her gloomy room to cry. Presumably, the reason why Miss Brill locks the fur in the closet is that she doesn’t want it to see her cry. Miss Brill also shares the rejection that both she and her fur face when they are offended by some boy and a girl: the former calls her a “stupid old thing”, whereas the latter says some offensive words regarding her fur. The company of the fur is highly valued by Miss Brill: she treats it as a person.
As a rule, Miss Brill enjoys a cake every Sunday, but the situation on the very Sunday when she and her fur were offended is different. Miss Brill just returns home to brood. The cake is a symbol of enjoyment and pleasure in her pitiful existence. When Miss Brill does not have the cake, she denies herself any kind of pleasure and enjoyment.
Similarly to the cake, the orchestra also has a positive meaning in the short story. It represents some longing for better times. The Orchestra playing symbolizes some kind of escape from her current existence deprived of enjoyment.