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Theme in “Miss Brill” Story by Katherine Mansfield


Modern societies face numerous challenges which affect the lives of people and, at times, significantly hinder their well-being and mental state. Isolation is among the main pressing issues encountered by individuals nowadays, and some experts state there is even a loneliness epidemic taking place (Klinenberg). The story “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield, despite being written a century ago, offers an insight into the topic of loneliness and isolation in society. The issue of loneliness is exceptionally important because such a state of mind can lead to even worse outcomes, including depression. Therefore, by exploring stories such as “Miss Brill,” one can get a better understanding of the phenomenon and how it can affect people.

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Why I chose this Topic

The issue of loneliness was chosen as the topic of the current paper not only due to its significance for modern society and people but also due to personal reasons. Personally, I observed several individuals who struggled due to their loneliness despite being successful professionals and having many acquaintances. There were also situations in my life when I experienced certain isolation due to not being able to communicate with my friends and family. As a result, the topic of loneliness is relevant for me, and I believe that analyzing “Miss Brill” will enhance my knowledge of the nature of the problem.

How It Affects the Story and its Elements

The topic of loneliness is thoroughly explored in the story in question, including in terms of the main theme of “Miss Brill.” The plot of the story concerns a woman who allocated a substantial part of her time to observing the lives of others and commenting on people’s looks, clothes, and actions. Moreover, Miss Brill treats the world around her to be a stage where everyone has a role in the play, which she watches and even directs.

The conflict of the story arises in the end and remains unresolved, and it can be characterized as an individual vs. reality. When Miss Brill hears a man calling her a “stupid old thing,” she realizes that she is not in control of the external world and that, in reality, she is a lonely woman (Mansfield 189). Such a pastime constitutes the only passion of Miss Brill, who spends the rest of her day in a small room which looks “like a cupboard” (Mansfield 190). Essentially, Miss Brill comes to the conclusion that she is completely alone in the world, and there is no solution to her problem.

How It Impacts People in the Modern Society

As mentioned above, the problem of loneliness considerably affects the life of people in the modern world, and Miss Brill highlights another aspect of this issue, the susceptibility to the isolation of older individuals. For instance, in the United States, more than 40% of people over 60 years old reported being lonely (Donovan and Blazer 1234). The current situation and the story show that the problem of loneliness among older adults has not changed in almost a hundred years.

Connections of the Theme to a Movie

The theme of “Miss Brill” is similar to that of a contemporary movie called “Her” directed by Spike Jonze. The plot of the film is a story of a man who lives in the future Los Angeles and falls in love with an AI of his operating system (Jonze). Just like Miss Brill, the main character of the movie, Theodore, lives in an imaginary world without paying any attention to reality. Yet, at some point, the AI leaves the main character, and he once again faces his loneliness and harsh reality. Both Miss Brill and Theodore are lonely people who try to escape their isolation and lack of communication, yet they still fail to avoid encountering reality.

The Author’s Biography

Katherine Mansfield, the author of “Miss Brill,” herself had a difficult life which in many aspects was reminiscent of the life of her characters. During her creative years, Katherine Mansfield became ill with tuberculosis and had to travel around Europe for health reasons which kept her out of touch with her friends (“Biography: Katherine Mansfield”). As a result, Katherine Mansfield had to experience long periods of loneliness which could inspire her to produce stories such as “Miss Brill.”

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How the Plot Affects Characters

The plot of the story is mainly centered around Miss Brill, therefore, it does not affect other characters in any substantial way. In fact, the author intentionally highlights the lack of any impact of Miss Brill’s actions or presence on the outside world. Miss Brill and her imagination are excessive and do not have a place in reality.


The story “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield is an extremely interesting piece of writing which provides the reader with an insight into the life of a lonely person. The main theme highlighted by the story is isolation and its impact on an individual and their life. “Miss Brill” remains exceptionally relevant in the modern world since the problem of loneliness, especially of older adults, continues to be a serious issue. Therefore, it is vital that more people read stories such as “Miss Brill” to understand the significance of the topic better.

I believe that it is difficult to produce a story about loneliness which would be similar or better in terms of quality than “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield. When writing a story, it is vital to keep it as authentic as possible and avoid making it look too artificial or basic. Katherine Mansfield managed to create a story which stays relevant a century later, and I am certain that I would not be able to do the same.

Works Cited

Klinenberg, Eric. “Is Loneliness a Health Epidemic?The New York Times. 2018. Web.

Donovan, Nancy, and Blazer, Dan. “Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Review and Commentary of a National Academies Report.” The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, vol. 28, no. 12, pp. 1233–1244. Web.

Jonze, Spike, director. Her. Annapurna Pictures, 2013.

“Biography: Katherine Mansfield.” Lumen, n.d. Web.

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Mansfield, Katherine. The Garden Party, and Other Stories. Alfred A. Knopf, 1922. Digital Library. Web.

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