Symbolism in Miss Brill

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Symbolism in Miss Brill

By | October 2012
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In the short story Miss Brill written by Katherine Mansfield explores ideas regarding vulnerability. Although the cake, fur and bench seem insignificant, they are vital in getting the author’s point across. The author effectively uses symbolism to subtly convey the idea that loneliness and optimism increase one’s level of vulnerability The bench in the park is a symbol of Miss Brill’s hope. She sits in the same spot hoping that one day one of the “two people [who] shared her special seat” with her will start a conversation with her (58). Unfortunately, this does not happen in the story and she is disappointed because “Miss Brill always looked forward to the conversation” (58). Despite the constant disappointment she continues to return to the same bench hoping that someday someone will talk to her. Although she is constantly let down, she feels that through her isolation she has mastered the art of eavesdropping. This symbolises Miss Brill’s optimism, regardless of the circumstances she always finds a way to look on the bright side. The fur embodies Miss Brill’s dignity and life style. In the short story Miss Brill describes the fur as a "rogue" which contradicts her earlier statement calling it a “Dear little thing” (57). It also lives a life similar to hers, in a cramped and dark apartment living a life that is far from glamorous. The fur, much like Miss Brill has also been mistreated. The nose of the fur “must have had a knock somehow” just like Miss Brill’s self esteem was knocked down by the boy calling her a “stupid old thing” and asking why she doesn’t “keep her silly old mug at home” (61). The fur is representative of her dignity because when she returns home after her day at the park she refuses to cry until she put the fur back into its box as if to preserve the last shred of her dignity in front of her only companion. The cake is representative of Miss Brill’s self worth. Every Sunday as she goes home, she stops by the bakery to get herself...