Character Analysis of Miss Brill
In the short story “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield, the author uses various ways to fully characterize Miss Brill, and in doing so reveals the many sides and complexity of her character.
It is difficult to understand Miss Brill because she does not understand herself. Miss Brill's given name is never mentioned since she has no friends who would use it. However, at the beginning of the story she is blissfully happy with her life and situation. She has compensated for her isolation by sitting in on the lives of other people. She tries to make her life more interesting by listening in on other people’s conversations. “She had become really quite expert, she thought, at listening as though she didn’t listen, at sitting in other people lives for just a minute while they talked round her.” This quote provides insight to Miss Brill’s character; it shows that she is not a part of things but desperately wants and tries to be. And it’s quite sad, really, because no one talks to her. No one wants to be her friend. She’s lonely, and it shows through despite her superficial optimism on the subject.
The fur piece is treasured by Miss Brill, who addresses it as "Dear little thing" and "Little rogue." We are told how "She had taken it out of its box that afternoon, shaken out the moth powder, given it a good brush, and rubbed life back into the dim little eyes." Gradually the fur piece comes to be a symbol of its owner. Both are of advanced age and a little the worse for wear. ". . . the nose, which was of some black composition, wasn't at all firm. It must have had a knock, somehow. Never mind - a little dab of black sealing -wax when the time came - when it was absolutely necessary."
She thinks to herself that the other people on chairs and benches were she same, Sunday after Sunday: "odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they'd just come from little dark rooms or even - even...