Miss Brill

Miss Brill Literary Elements


Short story

Setting and Context

Most of the plot takes place in the Public Gardens in an unnamed city in France in the early 20th century.

Narrator and Point of View

Third-person omniscient

Tone and Mood

Tone: detached, blithe, relaxed, whimsical, expectant, somber
Mood: sentimental, playful, crushed

Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonist: Miss Brill | Antagonist: the young French couple

Major Conflict

Will Miss Brill have a pleasant day in the park, or will something occur to stymie it?


Miss Brill's inner world comes crashing down on her—and the reader—when the "hero" and the "heroine" act in ways much different than she expects.


- The "faint chill" foreshadows that the "brilliantly fine" day might not be as comfortable and pleasant as Miss Brill expects it to be.
- Miss Brill's excessive attention to the fur foreshadows its association with her self; this is borne out at the end when it is "crying" in the box after Miss Brill was cruelly treated.




Miss Brill hears the phrase "The Brute!" repeated in the drums of the band after she is spurned; this alludes to the famous French novel "The Brute" by Guy des Cars.


The imagery depicting the individuals in the gardens shows the breadth of Miss Brill's powers of observation in order to set up her conclusion that they act out parts and so does she. In developing this imagery, Mansfield allows the scope of Miss Brill's epiphany to drive the short story, which ends when everything Miss Brill has observed and relayed to the reader is now complicated by the realization that she is not necessarily a reliable narrator.


Miss Brill wants to be part of the scene which she has previously felt detached from, but her inclusion in the garden's Sunday world hurts her as a result.


Miss Brill's interaction with the ermine toque over time shows how she has aged since she bought it; this parallels the development of other individuals at the garden as they take on different roles throughout their lives while retaining their distinguishing characteristics.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

Miss Brill refers to the woman wearing the ermine toque as simply that: "The ermine toque was alone; she smiled more brightly than ever." This is an example of metonymy, as this item of clothing is used as a substitute for the woman herself.


The fur which Miss Brill wears is heavily personified throughout the short story. This use of the literary element arguably is the most significant aspect of "Miss Brill" because the story begins and ends with references to the fur as a sentient being. Miss Brill calls it a "Little rogue," its eyes "snap at her," and it seems to be actively "biting its tail just by her left ear."