Miss Brill Theme Essays

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Miss Brill is a supremely alienated character. She is alienated from the world around her. She is alienated from the people in the park she sees. She even seems to suffer from self-alienation as she does appear to be fully in touch with the reality of her own appearance or image that she presents to the world. Overriding all this concrete alienation is the pervasive philosophical conceptualization that Miss Brill is alienated from God or fate or whatever deity or being is supreme in handing out the destinies to puny human beings.

Perhaps a more accurate representation of what Miss Brill does would be suppression. The question lingers as the end as she places that fur into the box. Has Miss Brill made a conscious decision to lock herself away inside a box and extinguish the spark of life. Or have things merely worked out that as the result of an unconscious repressive attitude toward attacking life with a vigor? The question lingers and is not answered. Not that it matters at this stage, of course; whether Miss Brill has consciousness chosen to step back, the fact remains that she has lived out a long repressed existence that succeeded in guiding her conscious choices to suppress that vigor. The life spark has gone long before the transformative moment of recognition and the real tragedy is that instead of igniting it, the sad visit the park has merely cut the wick entirely.

Miss Brill’s construction of an invented narrative for the park visitors that take the form of a play being enacted for her sole benefit becomes a metaphor for her entire life. Everything is an illusion and a fantasy because she has become disconnected from what is real. This alienation from reality is in part a defense mechanism to deal with her loneliness, but it also serves as a link to her conscious disengagement from pursuing a real life that involves real interaction with others. Just as most people realize that it is impossible to actually interact with characters on a stage or screen, so Miss Brill’s construction of a fantasy life fulfills the purpose of allowing her the excuse for disengagement; the people making up the cast of her interior plays are nothing more than phantoms on celluloid.

Alienation and Loneliness

Though Miss Brill does not reveal it in her thoughts, her behavior indicates that she is a lonely woman. She thinks of no family members during her Sunday outing, instead focusing on her few students and the elderly man to whom she reads the newspaper several times a week. Even her name, Miss Brill, suggests an isolating formality; with the absence of a first name, the reader is never introduced to her on a personal level. Her fantasy, in which she imagines the people in the park as characters in a play connected in some psychological and physical way to one another, reveals her loneliness in a creative way. Yet, her manufactured sense of connection to these strangers is shattered when she is insulted by the young couple that sit next to her on the bench When her fantasy of playacting is crushed by the conversation...

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