Literary Analysis Essay Example
Love, Pain, and Weakness in “Miss Brill,” “The Moths,” and “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”
The theme of love, pain and weakness can be found in numerous literary pieces. Many writers have referred to this theme because it is topical: throughout the centuries, people will always love, feel pain or weakness. In this regard, different displays of love or pain can be found in fiction. For instance, love can bring pleasure and help a person to enjoy every moment of life as well as hurt or transform him or her into its slave. Similar to love, pain can bring miseries and sufferings, as well as change person’s life for better. In addition to this, weakness can be regarded from two sides: it can support human development, or harm a man lacking the strength to make decisions. Although love, pain, and weakness are a topical issue for discussion, they may be observed from different sides depending on the plot of the story and character’s representation in the literary work. Specifically, a variety of manifestations of this theme can be found in such shorts stories as “Miss Brill,” “The Moths,” and “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” While the theme of love, pain, and weakness in the three works is depicted through such literary means as symbolism, imagery, and the flow of consciousness and time, it plays a distinct role in the plot development.
In “Miss Brill”, the author widely implies symbols and even parallel reality in order to support the indicated theme and show the heroine’s escape from the real world to fantasy. Although Kathleen Mansfield did not show this theme openly, the reader can feel its presence in every line of the text. The main character of the story is a middle-aged woman living a lonely life in her apartment in France. Teaching English at school, the only joy in the woman’s life is to sit on the bench in the park on Sundays and observe the outer world. The heroine enjoys listening to the conversations of the people passing by or sitting near her that helps Miss Brill to create her own world with its players.
In this regard, the woman’s loneliness can be deeply felt:
They did not speak. This was disappointing, for Miss Brill always looked forward to the conversation. She had become really quite expert, she thought, at listening as though she didn't listen, at sitting in other people's lives just for a minute while they talked round her.
The quotation shows that Miss Brill never participates in conversations. On the contrary, she always stands behind listening to other people. The character is a weak person, and in order to overcome this weakness and feeling of loneliness, she has to engage in active conversation with others. Nevertheless, it seems that this will never happen. The fact that she is always isolated from the surrounding indicates her loneliness. At the same time, when the woman tries to switch her role from the spectator to the player, she does not succeed because the world rejects her breaking the fantasy she created. In this way, the theme of loneliness, pain, and weakness is clearly evident in the story in light of parallel reality.
Similarly to Mansfield, the author of the short story “The Moths” approaches the discussed theme through the depiction of a miserable heroine abandoned by her family, its customs and traditions. The girl feels lonely being a part of the big family that consists of her sisters and a grandmother. However, the character does not look or behave like her sisters since the girl is not so pretty or able to do girly things. Meanwhile, the heroine regularly feels pain and insults from her sisters that make her angry at them. In this respect, only the pain caused by the great loss can help the weak girl to become the person she should be, and thus, obtain the inner piece. The only person she feels compassion and love from is her grandmother: “I always felt her gray eye on me. It made me feel, in a strange sort of way, safe and guarded and not alone. Like God was supposed to make you feel”. Despite pain and weakness which family traditions bring the girl, she feels great support from her grandmother. Moreover, grandmother teaches the protagonist different life lessons that will definitely help her in the future. The character is greatly attached to her grandmother, and while this love supports her and helps to feel secured, she has to lose it in order to find her true identity. The death of the grandmother causes the transformation of the young girl into the woman who becomes responsible for her family. Thereby, the character has to refuse from love and suffer from the great pain in order to change her weakness into strength. Thus, the author underlines that only pain, miseries, and loss of a loved one can show the person a way she or he is supposed to move on.
The theme of love, pain, and weakness can also be found in the story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” where it is shown through such a literary technique as flow of time and fictional reality similarly to Mansfield’s “Miss Brill.” In this regard, the notion of time depicted in Bierce’s story has a significant role in general and is connected to the analyzed theme. The plot of the story moves from the present to the past in order to demonstrate the hero’s fantasy, namely, his imagined present that portrays the fluidity of time accordingly:
Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene – perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night.
When the life of the main character has almost reached its end, Farquhar perceives current events less and less clearly. Similarly to Miss Brill from the previously discussed story, Farquhar appears between reality and the world he created. The reader becomes acquainted with the continuous flow of the hero’s thoughts and memories that depicts his feelings of love and pain. The audience knows that, in the present time, the character is hanged by the federal soldiers, but the second part of the story portrays his life where he has a loving wife and continues to be supportive to the Confederate. This part of the narration is so real that it becomes hard to doubt its authenticity. The theme of pain also can be observed in this part of the story when the main character closes his eyes and thus slips into his own fictional reality. Nevertheless, despite the manipulation of time, the protagonist cannot fully escape from the reality because death eventually finds him. Compared to Miss Brill, Farquhar tries to cling to the real world, but he does not succeed. In addition to this, the theme of love, pain, and weakness is deeply related to the flow of time and versions of reality in the story since the hero’s separation between his life and death is a portrayal of loss and pain the man is not aware about.
Moreover, the common to three stories theme unfolds through such literary techniques as symbolism and imagery, but has distinct purposes for each piece. For example, the heroine of Mansfield’s story wears fur on that lovely Sunday, which is her only love, and it seems miserable because she possesses such feeling to the thing but not to a human being. The woman listens to the young people sitting near her and mocking her fur, “It’s her fu-fur which is so funny”. Thereby, Miss Brill is a lonely character lacking love and being weak that makes her unable to change something in her life for better. In Bierce’s short story, it is a symbol of a bridge because it always connects two sides of the city, and it is a connection between real world and fiction the main character created in order to escape from his pain. The specific detail that represents the analyzed theme can be found in “The Moths” as well. Unlike the other two stories, this detail – the moths – portrays the character’s release from the pain and weakness she has suffered from before. Therefore, the symbolic and imagery details in the three short stories have a significant meaning because through them the main characters, particularly their hidden feelings and emotions become seen.
To sum up, the theme of love, pain, and weakness is common for the three stories, but its manifestations differ through the use of symbols, unreal world, and the flow of consciousness and time and the goals pursued by the writers. The main heroes go through different life barriers in order to find their own self, but only heroine of “The Moths” succeeds to do so. Abandoned by the real word, Miss Brill and Farquhar create their own realities that might seem true from the first side, but still they are different from the events which happen around them. The three characters are similarly isolated: the feeling of deep loneliness surrounds them and it seems that there is no way left for them to find happiness. In addition to this, the authors of the three short stories use specific details in order to represent the discussed theme. In “Miss Brill,” the author metaphorically demonstrates the central idea through the fur that her heroine wears. In Viramontes’ and Bierce’s stories, the bridge and the moths are meaningful symbols, which help reader’s better comprehension of the text and the meaning the authors intend to convey. Therefore, the theme of love, weakness and pain is present in the three literary pieces and the use of the specific literary means reveals some similarities in the heroes’ lives in this way. Simultaneously, the theme shows how these emotions can either make a person stronger, like in “The Moths,” or result in their complete life fiasco, like in the other two stories.