Anxiety Effects towards Existence in Katherine Mansfield’s Short Stories "Miss Brill" and "The Daughters of the Late Colonel"

Freud's Theory of Psychoanalysis

Elaboration, 2015

14 Pages, Grade: Undergraduate










This research discussed the effect of anxiety towards main characters’ existence as found in the short stories entitled Miss Brill and The Daughters of the late Colonel. The method applied in this research was qualitative. The writer used phrases, sentences, and paragraphs found in the short stories as the data of this final project. The procedure of collecting the data included reading, identifying, classifying, selecting and interpreting the data. The study finally found that first, anxiety occurred not only in several people with some serious condition such as lack of affection and company but also occurs in people who obtain too much affection. Second, the anxieties suffered by each characters on both short stories has strongly influence their characters on their community. And the third, each character of the short stories has different defense mechanism to cope with their anxiety. The different defense mechanism used by those characters’ are defined by their personality.

Keywords : Anxiety, Community, Existence, Psychoanalysis.


Penelitian ini membahas tentang efek kecemasan terhadap eksistensi karakter-karakter utama pada cerita pendek karangan Katherine Mansfield yaitu Miss Brill dan The Daughters of the late Colonel. Metode yang digunakan dalam penelitian ini adalah metode kualitativ. Penulis menggunakan kata, kalimat dan paragraf yang ditemukan dalam cerita pendek ytersebut dan berhubungan dengan topik penelitian ini sebagai data penelitian. Prosedur pengumpulan data yang digunakan termasuk menulis, mengidentifikasi, klasifikasi, pemilihan dan intepretasi data. Penelitian ini menemukan bahwa, pertama kecemasan terjadi tidak hanya pada individu yang mengalami kondisi serius kekurangan afeksi tapi juga pada individu yang mendapatkan afeksi yang berlebihan. Yang kedua kecemasan yang dialami setiap karakter berpengaruh kuat pada eksistensi masing-masing karakter dalam komunitas mereka. Dan yang ketiga, setiap karakter pada kedua cerita pendek memiliki mekanisme pertahanan yang berbeda berdasarkan kepribadian karakter untuk keluar dari kecemasan

Keywords : Kecemasan, Komunitas, Eksistensi dan Psikoanalisa


Human brain has its own system to manage several reactions upon human interaction. Persistent action creates a habitual response which characterizes one individual on the community. Character is an accepted expressive of individual inner attitudes and beliefs (Jacobs 2006). The characterization of one individual brings identity that placed each individual on a certain position on the community since the formed traits that constitute individual’s character are lasting and extremely resistant to change, regardless of the circumstance (Jacobs 2006). In order to strengthen this position, individual needs to create relationship with any member on the community so that interaction can be held.

On the community, the individual is given a world of shared meanings which he is located (Hinshelwood as quoted by Levine 2000:108). To share meaning, individual needs a communication as a bridge to understand each meaning. One individual may not be able to have a communication due to the lack of interaction with another. The lack of interaction with the community leads to damaged interpersonal relationships and intense anxiety.

Ewen in his book entitled An Introduction to Theories Personality (2003:20) defines anxiety as a highly unpleasant emotion that is similar to intense nervousness. This unpleasant feeling that makes individual choose not to give reaction to express her feeling of threatening danger. Anxiety is also causing individual not to take any action to maintain his existence.

Miss Brill, Josephine and Constantia are those who ride out the storm. Three of them are suffering from anxiety. They are spinsters whose existence on the community are being questioned as found in Short stories written by Katherine Mansfield entitled Miss Brill and The Daughters of the Late Colonel. Miss Brill tells a story about a struggle of a spinster to live properly among her community. She wants her existence to be acknowledged and respected in her community. Josephine and Constantia of The Daughters of the Late Colonel are in the same boat with Miss Brill. Both of them are having the mourning period after the death of their father. Without their father, their existence on their community are being questioned.


As an effort to find the effect of anxiety towards individual, I applied Psychoanalysis approach theorized by Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis attempts to explain hows and whys of human actions without developing aesthetics theory (Bressler 1999:148). Sigmund Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis and the psychodynamic approach to psychology. This school of thought emphasized the influence of the unconscious mind on behaviour. Much of Freud's work and theories were developed through individual case studies. In a case study, nearly every aspect of the subject's life and history is analysed to seek patterns and causes for behaviour (Cherry, 2015).

Freud began with the assumption that humans are organisms directed towards the goals of survival and reproduction. To fulfil these goals, they are guided by their needs revealed in the experiences of ‘hunger, thirst, the avoidance of pain, and sex (Ridgway 2006:7). The way of individual fulfil his wish will determine the personality.

Freud originally defined the structure of personality in terms of the unconscious, preconscious, and conscious which is called the topographic model. The topographic model states that the act of relegating material to the unconscious (repression) originates from the preconscious or conscious, and should therefore be accessible to awareness. Yet Freud found that his patients often engaged in repression without having any conscious knowledge that they were doing so, he was therefore forced to conclude that “all that is repressed is unconscious, but not all that is unconscious is repressed” (Boeree, 2006:18). According to Freud, human mind has three part.

Based on those three part of human mind, Freud developed a revised theory which is called the structural model that describes personality in terms of three constructs: the id, the ego, and the superego. Freud emphasizes that the id, ego, and superego are not separate compartments within the mind (Ewen 2003:18). They blend together, like sections of a telescope or colors in a painting. Freud called the predominantly passional, irrational, unknown, and unconscious part of the psyche the id, or “it”. The ego, or “I” is the predominantly rational, logical, orderly, conscious part. The ego relates the individual to reality and searches for objects to satisfy the wishes that id creates to represent the individual’s needs. And the last one is superego. Superego is a projection of the ego. The superego is partly conscious and partly unconscious (Ewen 2003:24). The superego almost seems to be outside of the self, making moral judgments, tell individual to make sacrifices for good causes even though self-sacrifice may not be quite logical or rational.

In this paper, I used Katherine Mansfield short stories entitled Miss Brill and The Daughters of the Late Colonel. Miss Brill told about a lonely and neglected spinster who has to fight over her anxiety so that her existence can be acknowledged by another member on her community. The Daughters of the Late Colonel told about Josephine and Constantia who are spinster and are suffering from anxiety over their community. They are having their mourning periods after their dictate father died and left them to live among their community by themselves.


The world is a reality. It is full of object, color and people. People consist of every important Individual that needs to act in order to reproduce and survive. In order to survive, individual has to live his life on the community so that his existence will be acknowledged by others.

Main Character’s Personality in Creating Anxiety

Miss Brill is a lonely spinster who survives in her life on the community. She has to act and react on Jardins Publiques, the place where she is struggling her existence. The Jardins Publiques, as the background of place in the story represents the community according to its various visitors. The visitors are started from a fine old man, a big old woman, the old couple, little children, two young girls, two young soldiers, two peasant women, a beautiful woman, a gentleman, a couple of girl and boy and Miss Brill herself. At this rate, all of them unite as one in the Jardins Publiques to build a community where Miss Brill alive to become exist. In other words, the community in Jardins Publiques is Miss Brill’s community.

Miss Brill is a kind of ignorance person. She follows the drive of her will without examine what the reality will react over what she’s been doing. Her will drives her to use her fur so that her ego lets it become real. She needs to use her fur because she needs to use it. She likes the fur. The primary process then transforms her need to satisfy the wish. She doesn’t put her ears on what people talk, think and judge about her. She still wears her fur although she already knew that the weather is nice. The sky is blue and the air was motionless, yet, the fur that she wears is not completely necessary except it is her own decision about her fashion. But on the contrary, people who see her fur think that it is an old fashioned and queer.

This condition has put her into situation where anyone who has their sight on her gives her a queer sight to express their strange feeling of seeing a woman wears a fur on a good and warm weather. The ego receives this sight as a signal of a potential danger and then creates anxiety on Miss Brill. This unpleasant threat by another member of the community discomfort Miss Brill. It is also jeopardies her position on the community. Miss Brill’s anxiety categorized into real anxiety, the potential danger faced by Miss Brill comes from her surrounding on the community. As her strange look appears, a judge and prejudice naturally appears as well. The character of Miss Brill mentioned as a strange old lonely spinster creates a different judgment and valuation on her from another people in her community. This is normal for person to have prejudice on Miss Brill as seeing her strange look. This prejudice has put Miss Brill into discomfort situation in her community.

The discomfort situation then create anxiety in Miss Brill. Her wishes of wearing her lovely fur is formed to be real by her ego drives but on the contrary, her ego receive a potential danger signal from the reality so that anxiety formed. She is afraid to talk with another and choose to be a quite expert and listening to another Miss Brill is also a kind of precise woman. She does care about every small detail of another that come to and fro in her eyes. What she does in the Jardins Publiques is watching what cross her eyes. She also observes a little thing that if she were not Miss Brill, she wants deeply concern about it. Thus happen as a result of her wishes. She has nobody to be talked to so that her will is looking for another source of happiness. This is then translates by her to go to examine anything caught by her eyes precisely. There is no conversation of Miss Brill towards another people found in the story. The primary process here can be found when her instinct drives her to have conversation with another. She needs to exchange what she’s got in her mind with another. But this process cannot be proceeded since her secondary process solves her need into another way. Instead of having conversation with another, she becomes a good observer. Miss Brill’s wish wants herself to be acknowledged and to be respected by others. Her mind urged her that being invincible that nobody care about is not good and comfort. It is hurt inside. The primary process transform her needs into something that makes her comfort since she heard some bodies talk about her and make a judgment about her.

The strong pressures which come from many members of her community has create her anxiety got higher. It is also associated with her personality, she almost never share about her feeling to another so that she caught to be introvert person. The introvert character also increase her level of anxiety. Miss Brill anxiety’s formulated in a form of excessive worries of creating communication with others and her compulsive behavior of eavesdropping another members on the community. Her reaction of couple’s talk about her showing her disability to express her real feeling. She has an excessive worries of showing her reaction to them.

Deal with the same concept of individual who has to survive on the community, The Daughters of the Late Colonel work through spinsters who just being left by their father, Josephine and Constantia. Josephine and Constantia have to deal with their life after the death of their father. Josephine, the eldest one, is a kind of expressive woman. Unlike Constantia who can hold what she feels about her surrounding, Josephine is easily expressing what she got in her mind. Her act is mainly drove by her mind, her primary process mostly success in a quick time. Josephine and Constantia have a contrary tendency, while Constantia will take a time to analyze the condition, Josephine will take a quick act to overcome the condition. The second process which is secondary process works in creating her to be as what an old sister should be.

Both Josephine and Constantia act as if they are girls who still alive under protection of their father. They use to live under their father’s rule. The secondary process is not working properly since they do not face the community as intense as Miss Brill. One that they face directly and routinely is Kate, a young maid at their house. Josephine’s ego hold her expressive character on somebody whose position is a stranger in her mind. She doesn’t protest when their maid decides what should be their decision. She is prone to do nothing to her maid and postpone her angry. The secondary process pushes her expressive character and makes her character on the community become less in power.

Constantia’s personality is seeing things widely. She has full of ideas. Her mind drives her to observe things around her so that she can obtain a better result of their choice in their life. She has only Josephine as her partner that she can always talk to in her life after her father dead. On her life, she doesn’t meet people as much as another do. Under his father’s rule, she never has to commit about dealing on the community. Her only person to communicate in comfort is Josephine. Based on this fact, her drives wishing to observing things widely. In order to do that, her primary process has created her to be a careful analyst.

Constantia also cares about every little things in her house, just like the position of her amethyst in her drawer. Her ego makes her to be someone who turns a deaf ear to anything happen around her such as the situation of Nurse Andrews who cannot stop eating until her plate is really clean. She decides not to do anything for instance protest or angry. Unlike Josephine who sets mad and express her feeling, Constantia chooses to do nothing and gaze away to desert.

Mainly, the line of the story deal with Josephine and her sister to struggle from their anxiety and reach their independent life. The main anxiety are described more than once to emphasize how anxiety influences her life. Though her father had already dead, Josephine still has the feeling of scared of her father that she is afraid to do something that he doesn’t like. Her drive always wants her to satisfy her father so that she won’t be punished. This custom creates her to be individual who scared of her father whenever she couldn’t satisfy him. The strict custom of her dictating father had pushed her drive to be oriented on her father’s satisfaction. In term of her father is going to be buried, she is afraid that it is a kind of inappropriate thing to do with her father. The feeling of anxious makes her feeling unpleasant. She has too many worries of her father’s fury, so that she is incapable of living independent lives .

The great worries of his father’s satisfaction has been translated into anxiety. The ego received the potential dangerous signal from the reality not only from her father but also from the people surround her or the community. On the story, the community, portrayed as Kate, her maid which characterize as a foreigner on her life. Josephine cannot overcome her anxiety when she has to face Kate, as a representative of member of the community. The quotation below shows the dialogue between them and Kate.

"I think it might be nice to have it fried," said Constantia. "On the other hand, of course boiled fish is very nice. I think I prefer both equally well… Unless you... In that case__"

"I shall fry it," said Kate, and she bounced back, leaving their door open and slamming the door of her kitchen.

Mansfield 1931:106-107

Her ego fails to grant her wish to have respect from her maid. It is then translated to be kind of anxiety. She has worry of her maid that she couldn’t have any reaction towards her near-rude maid. Her anxiety has hold her character to not show her expressiveness that she just remains silence and making eyes contact with her sister. When it comes to the community, her mind is covered with blank. She has no idea about community.

However the anxiety of the communion experienced by Josephine has create a perception to the community. This perception comes up with excessive worries that terrifying her. At this rate, she has no chance to show up her personality on the community which then influenced her existence on the community. Josephine’s ego reads a community which consist of many foreigners and outsiders to her life as matter contains dangerous signal. It is then translated into anxiety.

The Characters Existence Affected by Anxiety on the Community

Miss Brill never takes any action to communicate with others, she is just enjoying herself to be analyzer. She never create communication with other member of Jardins Publiques. Upon the communication, she should have built any relationship with another which is strengthen her position on the community. Though she feels like everybody of Jardins Publiques is a part of a play which everybody has its own part to be played, she accepts herself to be someone who plays a role as an observer.

Miss Brill existence is not fully respected by another since her disability of making any communication with another. She also fails to give a reaction when there are somebodies talking about her right under her nose. The line below defines the words from a copule that judged Miss Brill.

"It’s her fu-ur which is so funny," giggled the girl. "It's exactly like a fried whiting." Mansfield 1931:188-189.

It makes her wish restricted and transformed it into anxiety. Her risk to be highly exposed on anxiety also increasing when she is not someone who willingly share anything with another. This anxiety has been pressing her to be someone who won’t do anything when she is in a discomfort situation. Miss Brill’s existence is not strong enough to be acknowledged by another community’s member. She is not able to influence other even herself. She fails to tell herself that she need more affection and denies that she is crying.

Although Josephine and Constantia belongs to each other, they cannot have their own life the way Miss Brill lives her life though actually she has nobody in her life to share anything with. A traumatic life of their dictator father has put them to suffer from real anxiety which caused them to be pressured. Indeed, Josephine and Constantia has been living their life under their father’s control. They cannot build any relationship with other member at her community. Their life has been isolated from the community so that making any relationship with community is a hard thing to be settled.

Josephine and Constantia cannot build a good relationship with their maid Kate who meets them every day by face. In order to struggle their existence on the community, they have to struggle their existence on their house first. But before that, the very first thing to be settled is that they have to struggle their existence over them self. The anxiety over their father has swollen their existence over themselves. They have been sinking over the thought of their anxiety. They cannot live themselves independently, they uses to live the way their father rule them how to live. To live among the community, they need to make a progress so that they can manage to be acknowledged by the community. Both Josephine and Constantia cannot make any progress over them self to overcome their anxiety. Their will drives her to live out of the way their father’s rule but then it is impeded since their ego refuse to confess it to each other.


Excerpt out of 14 pages


Anxiety Effects towards Existence in Katherine Mansfield’s Short Stories "Miss Brill" and "The Daughters of the Late Colonel"
Freud's Theory of Psychoanalysis
State University of Semarang
English Literature
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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516 KB
Psychoanalysis, freud theroy, katherine mansfield
Quote paper
Tami Rizki (Author), 2015, Anxiety Effects towards Existence in Katherine Mansfield’s Short Stories "Miss Brill" and "The Daughters of the Late Colonel", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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