In the stories “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” by Katherine Anne Porter and “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield, both of the ladies let the reader delve into the depths of their characters’ minds by the use of stream of consciousness. A simple way to explain stream of consciousness is when a character’s thoughts and dialogue become one and it can be hard to distinguish what is real or not. This method in literature can be useful when portraying a character who is mentally unstable of some sort.
In both stories, they appear to talk to themselves (in their heads) but their thoughts are not actually spoken out loud nor are they ctually happening. Granny is hallucinating because she is dying while Miss Brill “hallucinates” because she is in denial and is trying to force a better life on herself. The authors of both stories illustrate what the two women are doing in a similar way, although the author of Granny Weatherall portrays the old woman to be considerably more delirious than Miss Brill.
In “Granny Weatherall”, Granny is in the process of dying so her mental state is not where it should be. She changes the scenarios and people around her; literally having her life flash right before her eyes. In this case, the stream of consciousness s in full force. It is difficult to understand what is going on in Granny’s head because she changes her thoughts constantly. In part of the short story, Granny appears to be remembering the time of when she was perhaps a young mother, caring for her children. “What was it I set out to do? he asked herself intently, but she could not remember. Soon it would be at the near edge of the orchard, and then it was time to go in and light the lamps. Come in, children, don’t stay out in the night air. Lighting the lamps had been beautiful. The children huddled up to her and breathed like little calves waiting at the bars in the wilight” (Porter). This quote shows Granny remembering a time when she was perhaps a young mom to her children. This cannot actually be happening because Granny is in her bed, resting.
Also this shows the stream of consciousness as Granny doesn’t actually say anything out loud; she says all of this to herself, in her head. It may also be possible that Granny had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for a long period of time which could explain her hostility towards her daughter, Cornelia, and the doctor in the beginning of the story. It is obvious that Granny feels irritation towards the doctor, as she calls him a “brat” and he appears to have an irate attitude with the doctor because he is “doctoring around the country with spectacles on his nose” (Porter).
Her hostility towards Cornelia appears to be more that of resentment and bitterness when Granny is thinking to herself of how Cornelia “thought she was deaf, dumb, and blind” and how she would make “little hasty glances and tiny gestures tossed around her and over her head” telling those around her to not cross Granny, only because “she’s eighty years old” (Porter). While the possibility of Granny having Alzheimer’s could be a plausible reason for her memories being mixed with he present, as well as her hostility, it is never confirmed in the story that she has this mental disease.
The delusional behaviors of Granny are easily explained by the fact that she is dying and may have Alzheimer’s, but in the case of the lovely Miss Brill, it is an entirely a new situation. Although both women behave similarly, their reasons for doing so, are vastly different. In “Miss Brill”, Miss Brill is enjoying her beautiful Sunday at the park, which she does every Sunday, and she begins having conversations with herself as if she were with a dear friend.
When read, the story shows that Miss Brill always comes to the ark by herself, if her beloved fur stole is not counted as a friend, and she appears to “people watch”. She observes all of the park goers and makes fairly conversational comments to herself about them: “It was like some one playing with only the family to listen; it didn’t care how it played if there weren’t any strangers present. Wasn’t the conductor wearing a new coat, too?
She was sure it was new”, and when Miss Brill is still at her some, getting ready for her day trip to the park, she begins taking to herself about her fur stole; “Never mind-a little dab of black sealing-wax when the time came-when it was absolutely ecessary… Little rogue! Yes, she really felt like that about it. ” (Mansfield). Miss Brill is an odd old woman; she talks to herself, imagines herself to be in a play “and it also explained why she had a queer, shy feeling at telling her English pupils how she spent her Sunday afternoons. No wonder!
Miss Brill nearly laughed out loud. She was on the stage” (Mansfield). She is in clear denial of her life being as miserable as it is and in the story, she appears to mock some of the people she is seeing by coining them as “odd” and “nearly all old” and the “way they stared they looked as though they’d just come from dark little ooms or even-even cupboards” (Mansfield). Ironically, Miss Brill herself is odd and she is old and she is living in a cupboard like room, so why would she try to mock these people as if she could never be such a person herself?
She is in denial of the way she is living and she tries to make herself seem “better” than those who lives the same way as she does. It is also possible that Miss Brill is losing her sanity from the isolation and misery she feels and she is trying to prolong her “normal life” as long as possible by denying her mental and environmental state. In psychology, t is known that if a person is in complete and utter isolation, or in Miss Brill’s case, a situation that forces her into isolation, they begin to hallucinate and eventually fall into insanity.
She is in such denial that she “hallucinates” herself to be in a better situation than she is, to make it seem as though she is a normal woman. Nothing could possibly be wrong with the lovely Miss Brill. The woman who talks to herself, who talks to a dead animal she wears around her neck, and who denies any sense of misery in her life by painting a euphemistic portrait in place of that misery, is a completely normal and sane woman. It is bvious that in both stories, both of the women are not in their right mind, but for very different reasons.
Granny is behaving the way she is because she is dying and it makes sense that she would not be in the proper mindset for this reason. Miss Brill is behaving the way she is because she is in denial of the horrible living situation she is faced with every day. While it is never directly stated, both of these women may also be on the, verge or already at the verge, of insanity. Again, for very different reasons; Granny has a possibility of suffering from Alzheimer’s, while Miss Brill has been forced into isolation for so long, that he has lost touch with reality and has more than likely begun the long fall into insanity.
Both of the authors use stream of consciousness to explore the minds of these two counterparts and they use this method to help those who are on the outside, understand what is going on inside, without having to explicitly state the facts. Stream of consciousness is a way to let the reader get insight into the minds of the characters and in both “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” and “Miss Brill”, the method is expedited in such a manner that it is obvious that both women are not in their right mind, but for very different reasons.