Symbols in Miss Brill Essay Sample

  • Topics: Literature
  • Pages: 4
  • Words: 1097
  • Date added: May 29, 2020

Kathleen Mansfield Merry is a modernist short story writer from New Zealand. However, in the writing field, she wore a pseudonym – Katherine Mansfield. One of the most read books of her authorship is Miss Brill. Miss Brill symbols occupy a special place in the book – thanks to the symbols used by the writer, readers can see, hear, and feel what surrounds the main character. The writer realistically described the false world in the eyes of Miss Brill, which ultimately led to a deep understanding of her loneliness and inability to distinguish between perception and reality. The ability to create valuable conclusions by depicting seemingly ordinary facts distinguishes Katherine Mansfield from other writers.

What is Miss Brill?

Miss Brill was published in the 1920s and is set after World War I in France. In “Miss Brill,” Katherine Mansfield introduces readers to an introverted, lonely woman who loves to eavesdrop on strangers, who looks at her dear friend’s fur coat, and who sometimes fantasizes about herself to be an actress.

The theme of Miss Brill is how loneliness and feelings of rejection can lead to a person being unable to distinguish between perception and reality. This is very clear from the fact that Miss Brill views and perceives the world in a relatively positive and playful way.

Miss Brill Summary

Before diving into the book’s symbols, let’s look at the Miss Brill summary. Miss Brill is the story of a lonely and unmarried older woman. The main character lives near Jardin Publics in a French city. The main occupation is teaching children and reading newspapers to the elderly. Miss Brill usually copes with her loneliness by spending Sundays walking in the park or garden.

At the story’s start, Miss Brill looks forward to spending her Sunday for a walk in the park. For this walk, she wears her favorite fur coat, which she combs daily to look good. The music and the attractive beauty of the park captivate her. However, eavesdropping on people’s conversations without their knowledge brings her more pleasure than music. Also, Miss Brill liked to look at running children, an older man who sells flowers, girls, and soldiers with an evaluating look.

The story’s main idea is revealed in the section when a young girl refuses to do something for her lover because Miss Brill is watching. The story reaches its climax when Miss Brill overhears a young couple talking about Miss Brill and laughing at her fur. Upon learning of this, Miss Brill leaves and returns to her closet. Eventually, Miss Brill puts the fur back in the box, and as she does so, she thinks she hears him crying. In this case, one can see how Miss Brill’s loneliness and misconception of reality led to a harsh dose of reality, ultimately leading to a woman’s feelings of rejection.

This story shows how perceptions can differ from reality and how people’s judgments can make others feel rejected and alone. In other words, our perception of reality is often erroneous due to personal circumstances. In addition, one can learn from this story the harsh reality that society is not as forgiving and caring as we all wish it to be. There are many people like Miss Brill in this world, and they must learn to accept others regardless of their circumstances. The message of this story is that our thoughts are our heaviest burden. If we are not comfortable with ourselves, we cannot be satisfied with the environment. Therefore, this will eventually lead to an inability to distinguish between perception and reality, forcing one to study what is true reality.

Symbols in Miss Brill

Symbols in Miss Brill include:

  • The bench.
  • Eavesdropping.
  • Fur.
  • Cake.
  • The orchestra.

At first glance, these things have nothing in common. However, this Miss Brill essay proves that these things set the stage for creating a distorted impression of reality and led to the main character’s loneliness.

The Bench

This essay about Miss Brill shows that she spends most of her life on the same spot, a park bench. The main character does this not to enjoy the fresh air or nature but in the hope that someone will notice her and want to know about her thoughts. Unfortunately, her dreams do not come true, which depresses her, causing doubtful thoughts about her appearance. For the main character, the bench is a symbol of hope. However, in reality, the bench is a symbol of disappointment.


The bench may also be considered a perch, on which Miss Brill is a fly. Sitting in this place, the main character loves to observe other people’s behavior and eavesdrops on the conversations of people walking nearby. On the other hand, the bench symbolizes Miss Brill’s optimism. She could turn an empty bench into a place that gave her a glimpse into other people’s lives.


Miss Brill’s fur is her companion. She trusts her thoughts to this old, worn fur. Moreover, she imagines that fur is a man. Such behavior of the main character indicates that she craves the attention of men and the second half. In many ways, the life of the fur resembles the life of the main character – Miss Brill puts the thing in the closet, thinking that the fur will cry. Similarly, the main character will return to her room to cry. She puts him in the closet, so he won’t see her crying.

Fur also shares the misfortune that Miss Brill faces. The main character perceives the fur as a real person who wants to cry because of the negative statements of people walking nearby. However, in reality, Ms. Brill does not want to accept that the condemnation of her appearance concerned her.


Usually, Miss Brill gets a cake every Sunday. However, the day the fur and the woman were insulted is different from her usual Sunday. After a walk in the park, she returns home to sulk. The cake is a symbol of a carefree life. Not getting the cake, the main character feels devastated and unhappy.

The Orchestra

Like the cake, the orchestra represents the positive aspects of Ms. Brill’s life. The orchestra is also an excellent addition to the Sunday stroll. The orchestra takes the heroine into a performance where she and the people around her are actors. The orchestra’s songs represent a gateway that takes her further away from her current existence.

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