The theme of social acceptance is a significant theme presented in both Ernest Hemingway? s Soldier? s Home and Katherine Mansfield? s Miss Brill. Both characters are socially isolated and their ability to relate to those around them has been inhibited by past events in their lives. In Soldier? s Home, Krebs is having a hard time adjusting to the norms of his small after returning from the war. In Miss Brill, Miss Brill is seen as a social outcast because of her bizarre habit of talking to the stuffed mink she wears on her shoulder.
It is clear that both characters feel an inability to relate to others in society, as well as misunderstood by those around them. In Hemingway? s Soldier? s Home, he tells the story of a young man named Krebs. In Krebs? case, he has lost confidence in himself and feels unworthy to be re-introduced to the different aspects of his small town. Krebs enlisted in the marines after college in 1917 and was deployed with the rest of the troops to go to Germany to fight in World War I.
His return from the war was never properly embraced ?
By the time Krebs returned to his hometown in Oklahoma the greeting of the heroes was over. He came back much too late. The men from the town who had been drafted had all been welcomed elaborately upon their return.? (Hemingway, 165) The people in Krebs? town thought it was ridiculous for him to return so late. So immediately upon returning from the war he is already having a hard time fitting in with society. Krebs also has no interest in introducing himself back into society. This is demonstrated by his daily routine. During this time, it was late summer, he was sleeping late in bed, getting up to walk down town to the library to get a book, eating lunch at home, reading on the front porch until he became bored, and then walking down through the town to spend the hottest hours of the day in the cool dark of the pool room. He loved to play pool. In the evening he practiced his clarinet, strolled down town, read, and went to bed.? (Hemingway, 166) In addition to this dull routine, he doesn? t have any interest in getting a girlfriend because he is too lazy to do the courting and has no desire to lie about his life in the war.
The narrator notes that the only people he can relate to are other soldiers that were in the war with him. ?? when he occasionally met another man who had really been a soldier and they talked a few minutes in the dressing room at a dance he fell into the easy pose of soldier among other soldiers.? (Hemingway, 166) These reasons clearly show that Krebs has isolated himself from society. The only people he can truly relate to are his fellow soldiers. In Katherine Mansfield? s Miss Brill, Miss Brill has isolated from society by displaying bizarre behavior in public. She has an obsession with her mink fur. Miss Brill put up her hand and touched her fur. Dear Little thing! It was nice to feel it again. She had taken it out of its box that afternoon, shaken out the mouth powder, given it a good brush, and rubbed the life back into the dim little eyes.? (Mansfield, 275) The fur has become her only companion. Every Sunday when she goes to listen to music in the park she brings it with her. Miss Brill? s attendance at the concerts on Sundays shows her effort to try to fit in with society. However, her goal there is not to socialize, but to instead listen to others conversation and judge them. Perhaps they would go soon.. Last Sunday, too, hadn? t been as interesting as usual. An Englishman and his wife, he wearing a dreadful Panama hat and she button boots. And she? d gone on the whole time about how she ought to wear spectacles; she knew she needed them; but that it was no good getting any; they? d be sure to break and they? d never keep on. And he? d been so patient. He? d suggested everything-gold rims, the kind that curved round your ears, little pads inside the bridge. No, nothing would please her. ?They? ll always be sliding down my nose!? Miss Brill had wanted to shake her.? Mansfield, 275-276) Miss Brill? s way of acclimating herself into society is going to the concerts and listening to the conversations, this combined with her personification of her fur creates a smoke screen social acceptance; even though she is lonely and considered by others to be an outcast. ?? 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 fu-fur which is so funny,? giggled the girl. ?It? s exactly like a fried whiting.?? Mansfield 277) This conversation was a rude awakening for Miss Brill. She experienced extreme sadness and became aware of her social isolation. ?She unclasped the necklet quickly; quickly, without looking, laid it inside. But when she put the lid on she thought she heard something crying.? (Mansfield, 278) This quote confirms that Miss Brill has become one with the fur, and she allows it to speak for her. From this one can gather that she feels that society hates her. There are really no differences between the two stories. Both characters are isolated from society and have little to no social life.
The one clear difference is how they became so isolated from society. In Krebs? case it was obvious that it came from his returning from the war. However, in Miss Brill? s there is no clear indicator as to how she became so removed, but the effects that her isolation has had on her. So, sadly enough for these two characters they have no feelings of companionship outside their own realm. Lucky enough for Krebs he still has his sisters and mother, who look at him as a hero. Unfortunately, the only companionship Miss Brill has is her fur. Both characters lead sad and desolate lives.
In conclusion, the differences between the two characters situations are different, but essentially their feelings toward society are the same. They both observe society around them, but make no effort to join it. They are also both seen as weird outcasts in their social situations, and no one makes an effort to interact with them. They view society around them as a show and watch and listen to it closely and carefully. Both characters make astute observations of those around them, yet neither of them both to look at themselves and what they can do to be a part of the show they both have become so obsessed with.
Both characters believe that society has shunned them. Their feelings of loneliness and isolation present a very important aspect of the broader question ? What does it mean to be human?? Miss Brill and Krebs would not know how to answer the question because they have no experience in society to back it up. I sympathize with both of these characters, not only because how society has treated them but because they will never have that feeling of belonging.
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