"Miss Brill"

"Miss Brill" - from The Garden Party (1922)

The lone female in the title places Miss Brill in the same marginal existence as the old woman in "Life of Ma Parker". This story traces a woman's Sunday ritual of sitting on her "special" seat in the Park and silently enjoys "sitting in other people's lives just for a minute while they talked round her". She tells herself that her absence would be noticed - "Even she had a part and came every Sunday. No doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn't been there; she was part of the performance after all." The people surrounding her are cameo actors appearing before her and the minor actors remain anonymous, as they do in a play script, in which their past life is of no relevance. Mansfield's stories are indeed noticeable for their utter absence of anecdote. Miss Brill's illusions are destroyed on overhearing two lovers talking about her - "Why does she come here at all - who wants her?" She hankers after a part in a scene that entirely excludes her -she is the lone child in the playground longing to join in the games but believing all the time that she is part of them. Putting away her Sunday fur on returning home from the park, Miss Brill imagines that she hears something crying in the box, as due to her disillusioned existence, she cannot recognise her very tears as her own. Mansfield described Miss Brill in terms of a "musical composition" in which she was ''trying to get nearer and nearer to the expression of Miss Brill until it fitted her.' (letter to Murry 17 Jan 1921.)

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