Comparison of Main Character's Isolation in Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl" and Katherine Mansfield's "Miss Brill"

Essay by KaterroonyCollege, UndergraduateA+, November 2004

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In Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl" and Katherine Mansfield's "Miss Brill", the protagonists experience different yet similar degrees of isolation. In "Girl", the isolation is subtle while in "Miss Brill" the isolated status of the character is extremely obvious. Both types of isolation involve the character's social life/role and stem from those around them; Miss Brill becomes isolated and excluded from surrounding strangers in the park, while a young girl's mother ignores her.

With "Girl", Kincaid presents the reader with a long list of social instructions and warnings from a mother to her daughter. The advice involves everything from the very traditional, such as how to sew on a button, to the dark, unspoken aspects such as how to "throw away a child before it even becomes a child" (440). All of the advice pertains to social roles and duties of women. The protagonist, whose name is never given, presents the reader with small clues that she questions her mother's teachings.

She only makes the attempt to question her mother twice: "but I don't sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school" (440) and "but what if the baker won't let me feel the bread" (441) give indications into the young girl's mindset. She seems to somewhat disagree with her overbearing mother but not enough to pursue any type of argument and seems to be rather disconnected from her mother's long tirade. Giving the indication of isolation is her mother's response to her weak protests. She barely notices her daughter's comments, showing virtually no reaction, except to refute her latter statement. The daughter is ignored throughout by her mother, someone who conventionally plays a more attentive and caring role, in contrast with "Miss Brill", who is ignored by strangers.

In Mansfield's short story,