Denial isn't just a River, it's a State of Mind

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This is for Katherine Mansfield's short story "Miss Brill."

"On her way home she usually bought a slice of honeycake at the baker's. It was her Sunday treat. Sometimes there was an almond in her slice, sometimes not. It made a great difference" (351).

I can't help but think Miss Brill has this ritual of sorts so that she could make herself believe that she had a life. Let me explain... When one is settled into things, they have a routine that they follow daily, weekly, etc. It's a normal part of life, so Miss Brill develops this routine besides reading the paper to the old man. Also, the fact that finding one small almond in a cake makes her happy shows how little else she has to look forward to in her life. From listening to the young couple, she realizes that she has a shadow of a life and therefore no longer sees any point in doing a routine.

Miss Brill thoughts here...


Melissa Schwenk said:

Kayla, good point. The idea that without her routine Miss Brill simply falls apart. She has no idea who or what she is. This break in routine allows for her to step outside of her usual self and see things in a whole new perspective that is not always as flattering as she might have wished it to be.

I found the almond aspect to be extremely sad. It was like the only happy moment that her life held and sometimes even that was questionable since it didn't always happen. Maybe there's a connection in there somewhere to her own struggle for happiness. Perhaps, she has attempted to find happiness, but sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. So therefore, she must try something completely new that includes breaking with her usual routine.

Carissa Altizer said:

I agree, I think Mansfield added the section about the single almond in order to make Miss Brill's life seem very routine and uneventful. Then again, haven't you ever gotten excited when the barista adds extra whip cream to your frozen latte? Rather insignificant things sometimes make my day ;)

Josie Rush said:

Carissa, I have to go with your last sentence here. I thought that detail helped me relate to Ms. Brill a little more. Mansfield had to suspect that most of her readers didn't spend their days sitting in park and imagining life was a play, but they probably did get a little more excited about life when something "small" happened (like receiving an almond in a cake). Come on, tell me you guys don't get happy when you get that extra swirl of whipped cream on your latte.

Aja Hannah said:

Maybe the almond wasn't her only thing that made her happy. Maybe she thought of it as a pleasant surprise and she appreciated the little things like an almond in her honeycake. When I used to buy chocolate cake, I always looked forward to maybe finding a chocolate chip that was still whole.

I wouldn't necessarily say that the almond in her cake defined Miss Brill's life, but it certainly did provide a sort of security. She didn't even try to get that security because she was already so far from her "safe place" because of the insults she withstood. I definitely agree with everyone about the almond being one of those little moments that makes your day, but I think it was more than that. It was a safety net that could no longer save her.

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