Saturday, November 14, 2015

Miss Brill - Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield writes of such subtle aspects of human nature, the quirky shades, and how lives turn. There is a sense of the gentle versus the blunt, the unknown and unfelt aspects that the sensitive victims feel in her stories. This book has three stories 'Marriage a la Mode', 'Miss Brill' and 'The Stranger'.

In 'Marriage a la Mode' the husband loves his feisty wife to distraction. But he has a normal life of normal means and is struggling to keep his family afloat. His wife however has artistic impulses and cultivates a bunch of partying bohemians for friends. While returning home to see her on a weekend, he writes a heartfelt letter to her about how he feels for her. After he leaves she reads the letter to her lot and they mock him and his middle class sentimentality. For a few moments she feels bad that she did this to him, and then she is back to her normal self. One can only sympathise with the husband and hopes he finds the sense to leave her.

In 'Miss Brill' we meet an English teacher who paints a lovely picture of life in the park in her mind. She is feeling fine today with her fur coat. A young man and woman sit next to her and she imagines them as the hero and heroine of her imagined play. Until the young couple say something nasty about her and her fur coat within her earshot. Miss Brill's day is completely spoiled and she returns directly home and rids herself of her fur coat. Again, sensitive and insensitive, beautifully portrayed. One can feel the pain and humiliation Miss Brill feels.

Then 'The Stranger' where the impatient middle aged husband is waiting for his wife to return from her voyage. He cannot wait to meet her and pour his love for her but he finds her distant. He finds out that a young man on the voyage died, in her arms. She is sad. He knows she cared for that young man more than she ever did for him. The young man's memory remains as a ghost forever between them.

Very fine and subtle and very distinct.

No comments: