You are on page 1of 2

Hillary Du

Mr. Gallagher

AP English Literature

How does Katherine Mansfield use POV to develop theme?

Oftentimes the narrator of a story goes completely unnoticed or neglected. What

many do not pay attention to is that a narrator sets up everything from scenery to plot to

tone. In Miss Brill by Katherine Mansfield the reader can gain an insightful look thrgouh

a selective omniscient point of view. From there the reader can then arrive at the theme of

life being like a play set with a narrator and its actors.

Miss Brill starts out with an objective description of the story's setting. The

narrator captures Miss Brill's childish and overly excited tone. Even from the beginning

we can see that the narrator, not Miss Brill herself, but is someone that observes her with

extreme scrutiny. Her every emotion is presented, but even mocked in a way because

Miss Brill is a grown woman. Mansfield manipulated punctuation so as to first give Miss

Brill a younger personality, such as when she exclaims "Very pretty!" The narrator

develops her innocently enough to demonstrate that Miss Brill is in fact an actress.

Miss Brill enjoyed admiring others, "little children...swooping and laughing." Her

interest demonstrates her yearn to fit in with society. Miss Brill is neither accepted by the

old or the young and is forced to lead a life where her everyday life is a struggle for self-

definition and acceptance. The narrator observes her in the act of observing others and

acts as a representation of how the town thinks her to be. The narrative plays a double

role because the narrator is able to tell the story from Miss Brill's perspective and as a

bystander too.
The story then goes to Miss Brill thinking that her pastime was like watching "a

play." She even admits that she has "been an actress for a long time." As general

knowledge, the reader can derive that Miss Brill's role in this "play" is fake. Her passive,

yet still impossibly happy, reaction towards rejection questions reality. The narrator

creates a fine line between fiction and reality when he/she speaks about the scenery as

opposed to the scenes Miss Brill is actively "acting" in. Miss Brill has resorted to this

fake reality of hers because all humans want to be accepted by our peers. The condition

lies in our hearts. An objective narrative is needed because Miss Brill could not really tell

from reality and dream. Everything seems "delight[ful]" to her.

Miss Brill, through her innocent depiction of a clearly selective society,

eventually loses faith in its goodness. "Something so beautiful" then becomes difficult to

cope with as she listens in on criticism directed towards her - "that stupid old thing." The

limelight on the wonderful youth and people that she once enjoyed suddenly fades.

Mansfield includes a big break between the ending dialogue and conclusion. The tone

becomes solemn, sympathetic even. Miss Brill becomes speechless and she "put[s] the

lid" on her naïve character. The narrator ends with a dramatic whisper, concluding in

observations that Miss Brill would not have noted in such detail. The "play" ends quietly

and the narration draws the curtains on Miss Brill's now "dark little...cupboard." Life is

not always an enjoyable play. It eventually comes back to reality.

Related Interests