What are the themes expressed in "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield?


The harshness of the aging process and the dangers of replacing people with things are the two primary themes in "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield. Miss Brill is an elderly spinster, living alone in one of the resort parts of France, most closely attached to her furs. Living far from home, Miss Brill tutors children and reads from the newspapers to someone who may or may not be able to hear her.

When the reader observes Miss Brill taking to her fur as "dear little thing" or "little rogue," and trying to bring it back to life with a brush, it is clear that there is an at least somewhat unhealthy attachment. Of course, the fur matches her in a number of ways — they are both a little bit worn, and they have both been around a long time. Because Miss Brill has no friends around, this is the closest she comes to companionship. Even though she goes out in public, with such routines as the outdoor concert in the public gardens on Sundays, and enjoys listening to the conversations of others, she remains behind a social wall of her own. Of course, this wall is blinding herself to the social realities around her.

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