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Symbols in Miss Brill Essay

There are very few symbols in Katherine Mansfield Miss Brill. The most important of these symbols are things in her everyday life or part of her usual routine.

The Bench

Miss Brill spends most of her days on a park bench. She doesn’t do so to simply enjoy the fresh air, but mainly in hopes that she will share a conversation with one of the two people who enjoyed the same seat in the park. This never happens though and she is down on this as she was looking forward to it. The bench itself represents hope that something she is expecting will happen. However, Miss Brill doesn’t view the bench as a symbol of disappointment.

The park benches are also perches for other elderly people whom Miss Brill feels probably came from some dark place. It is revealed at the end of day that Miss Brill herself returns to a dark place.

Eavesdropping

The bench could also be viewed as a perch or the proverbial wall of which Miss Brill is a fly on. While sitting on the bench, Miss Brill enjoys eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. This could also be seen as Miss Brill’s optimism as she turned a negative into a plus regardless.

Rogue

Miss Brill’s fur—which calls a rogue—represents a companion as well as herself. It is an older fur that is somewhat worn. Miss Brill refers to it as a male which reflects that she not only longs for excitement (via the term rogue), but that she also doesn’t have a significant other in her life. The fur is a substitute companion that accompanies her to the park. It lives a life similar Miss Brill’s as it is put into the closet to lament in the same way Miss Brill returns to her dark room to cry. She puts it in the closet so that it wouldn’t see her cry.

The fur also shares the rejection that Miss Brill sees when a boy calls her a “stupid old thing” and a girl insults her fur. She values the fur’s companionship and treats it as if it were an actual person, saving it the dignity of crying in front of her when actually she didn’t want her companion to see her cry.

Cake

Normally Miss Brill gets a cake every Sunday to enjoy, but this particular Sunday when she and the fur are insulted is different. She simply returns home to sulk. The cake represents a bit of enjoyment in an otherwise uneventful and pitiful existence. By not getting the cake, Miss Brill denies herself that enjoyment.

The Orchestra

Like the cake, the orchestra has positive connotations of a better time. It adds to Miss Brill’s park experience every Sunday. It allows for her imagination to wander in the form of a play where everyone in the park participates. The orchestra’s songs represent gateways that take her further from her current existence.