“Miss Brill” alerts us to the title character’s tendency towards delusion and fantasy from the very start, when she starts speaking fondly to her fur coat. Miss Brill is not actually out of her mind, but she is desperate for communication with others. In order to feel a part of something, she goes to the park each week, where she enjoys watching all the people who come to enjoy the band and play on the field. Though Miss Brill is not delusional about what she sees, nor does she speculate much about what she hears—she takes things as she they come—she does begin to feel how connected everyone is to one another, that everyone is a player on a stage, and that she herself is part of the play. Indeed, she thinks that people would miss her if she were not to be there.
However, Mansfield shows Miss Brill to be rather self-deluded about her place in the community when a boy and girl dismiss her, saying, “Who wants her?” The couple’s exchange forces Miss Brill to face the reality of her alienation, and the illusion that Miss Brill builds around herself to feel connected to others comes apart. Through the cruelty of others, Miss Brill begins to understand her own self-delusion. And yet, as the story ends with Miss Brill sadly packing away her fur coat, the story asks the reader to think about how important it is to be realistic about one’s own life, and whether some delusion is necessary for happiness.
Delusion and Reality ThemeTracker
Delusion and Reality Quotes in Miss Brill
She had become really quite expert, she thought, at listening as though she didn’t listen, at sitting in other people’s lives just for a minute while they talked round her.
Often people sat on the benches and green chairs, but they were nearly always the same, Sunday after Sunday, and—Miss Brill had often noticed—there was something funny about nearly all of them. They were odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they’d just come from dark little rooms or even—even cupboards!
The ermine toque was alone; she smiled more brightly than ever. But even the band seemed to know what she was feeling and played more softly…What would she do? What was going to happen now?
Oh, how fascinating it was...It was exactly like a play.
They were all on the stage. They weren’t only the audience, not only looking on; they were acting. Even she had a part and came every Sunday.
“Yes, I have been an actress for a long time.”
“Why does she come here at all—who wants her? Why doesn’t she keep her silly old mug at home?”
“It’s her fu-ur which is so funny,” giggled the girl. “It’s exactly like a fried whiting.”
If there was an almond it was like carrying home a tiny present—a surprise—something that might very well not have been there.
She unclasped the necklet quickly; quickly, without looking, laid it inside. But when she put the lid on she thought she heard something crying.