Very Fictional Fiction

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**I don't want to go too deeply into this topic, since I'll be presenting on it on Monday.  Also, I'm writing this with a migraine, so please be understanding.

This probably says something about me as a human being, but the entire time Ms. Brill was happily commenting on people, I hated her.  As soon as her spirit was crushed by the "hero and heroine," I liked her a little more.  Though, I don't know that I liked the story more... Did this seem a little contrived to anyone else?

"'But why?  Because of that stupid old thing at the end there?' asked the boy.  'Why does she come here at all--who wants her?  Why doesn't she keep her silly old mug at home?'

'It's her fur-fur which is so funny,' giggled the girl.  'It's exactly like a fried whiting'" (351).

First, I dunno, some inside voices may have been prudent here.  Secondly, and relevantly, it's unlikely that in one conversation this couple could have touched upon each of the points of pride in Ms. Brill's life.  Yes, it made for a sad story, but a rather unrealistic one as well.

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4 Comments

Carissa Altizer said:

I understand where you are coming from, but I can't say that I necessarily agree with you about "Miss Brill" being unrealistic. The research writing example in Roberts also touched on the topic, "Peterson claims that Mansfield creates climaxes that are too artificial, too unlifelike, giving the impression not of reality but of Mansfield's own cleverness" (267).

I think that it is very likely that the couple could hurt her as deeply as they did. Miss Brill is a fragile woman living in her own bubble of fantasy to protect herself from her own loneliness. By eaves-dropping and watching others, she does her best to conceal her own sadness inside. More than likely the fur piece was from her young adult life when she felt like she was a star and she had more companions (friends, family?). She still wants to feel young and beautiful when she wears it. The young couple, whom she immediately admires for their youth and love insult her age and the fact that she is alone. She is thrust out of her happy facade and goes home to her lonely apartment to put away her youth.

Young people can be very hurtful. I can't imagine hearing a couple saying something like that about me when I'm older and having difficulty accepting my age. Imagine if you were taking a Sunday stroll around the park and you wore an out of date pair of boots or jacket or something to make you feel young again. It would crush you, don't you think?

Josie Rush said:

Carissa, I totally agree that what the young couple said had the capacity to hurt Ms. Brill. The unrealistic part is, in my opinion, the fact that that exact couple sat down and insulted the two exact things that Ms. Brill had been proudly contemplating. You make good points about how hurtful young people can be, and I think you're right, but it wasn't that Ms. Brill was hurt that I found contrived, it was that those precise things were said right in front of Ms. Brill that I thought was unrealistic.

I wouldn't necessarily call it completely unrealistic, because I've been in a similar situation as Miss Brill. In seventh grade, I got this new pair of jeans and from the middle of my calf down they were covered in these maroon beads. (you may laugh; I know it's lame now). But my aunt bought them for me from a really popular store in Pittsburgh, and I felt like the coolest kid in school because I wore them with this weird hairpiece that my aunt bought with them. In reading class, third period, I heard all this whispering right behind me, only to discover the GPLT (Glassport Lady Thugs - I kid you not) were making fun of my pants and hairpiece. I was absolutely crushed because I thought the pants and hairpiece were my key to popularity. Uh... it wasn't.

So, I agree with both of you that the story was hurtful. But as to whether or not it was unrealistic, I'd say that such a situation is unlikely - but not completely impossible. However, since it is only a short story, and it seems like short stories of the time were more about being not-so-subtle, I think it works.

Josie Rush said:

Karyssa, Wow. That was quite the story, my friend. Maroon beads are stylish, no matter what the Glassport Lady Thugs (and again, wow) said.
You've convinced me about one part of this climax. It is more realistic than not that the animal Miss Brill was wearing would get mocked. I've too been on the unhappy end of fashion mockery (I will not tell you how I dressed in elementary school, just take my word for it), and I know such insults generally come when you are most proud.
However, very rarely have I been thinking, "Oh, golly, I'm so happy that I'm *needed* here. Life is a play, and my part is essential" only to have some random strangers come within earshot and say "Who is this completey unnecessary person that seems to think life is a play? I wish she'd leave." Mansfield could've done a little better of a job than that.

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