Miss Brill


Katherine Mansfield

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Themes and Colors
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Delusion and Reality Theme Icon
Connectedness Theme Icon
Youth and Age Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Miss Brill, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Connectedness Theme Icon

Miss Brill, during the time she spends in the park, constantly looks for connections between people. She notices how two young girls and two soldiers meet each other and laugh. She sees a boy picking up a bunch of flowers a woman has dropped. She notices a woman in an ermine torque and a gentleman speaking to each other and imagines what they are saying to one another. These are not Miss Brill’s imaginings; they are real interactions between separate and different individuals who nonetheless mean something to one another. The theory that Miss Brill develops, that everyone belongs to part of a tremendous stage production, remains a valid way to understand and visualize how everyone together makes up a community or a society.

Miss Brill has a strong desire for people not only to be connected to one another, but also for these connections to be positive. The week before an Englishman and his wife were arguing about something so silly that Miss Brill wanted to shake the woman. What happens within the connections Miss Brill observes has a visceral effect on her. Put another way, even though Miss Brill deludes herself about her own importance in the scene around her, Miss Brill herself feels connected to the people she watches. That feeling of connectedness also isn’t a delusion: she feels connected, which makes it real. To some extent, that the other characters don’t feel as connected to her doesn’t matter, doesn’t lessen the reality of the connection she feels. Of course, once the cruelty and rudeness of the boy and girl makes Miss Brill view herself through the eyes of others and get the sense that those others don’t feel connected to her, she retreats in pain from what to her now seem like unrequited connections. The pain Miss Brill feels, then, asserts both the importance of feeling connection to human beings and how trying to forge such connections makes one vulnerable. At the same time, it is worth noting how much more noble and exciting Miss Brill’s sense of a universe of connections is to the callous cruelty of the boy and the girl. The story’s power comes not just from the tragedy of Miss Brill’s pain after realizing how others see her and then shutting herself away, but also from the ruin of the beauty of her vision of the connectedness of all people.

Related Themes from Other Texts
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Connectedness ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Connectedness appears in each chapter of Miss Brill. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Connectedness Quotes in Miss Brill

Below you will find the important quotes in Miss Brill related to the theme of Connectedness.
Miss Brill Quotes

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!

Related Characters: Fine old man and big old woman
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 300
Explanation and Analysis:

“Yes, I have been an actress for a long time.”

Related Characters: Miss Brill (speaker), Old Man
Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:

“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.”

Related Characters: Boy and Girl (speaker), Miss Brill
Related Symbols: Fur Coat and Garments, Fried Whiting
Page Number: 302
Explanation and Analysis: