Miss Brill Literary Elements

Miss Brill Literary Elements


Short Story, Realism

Setting and Context

An unnamed city in France. Most of the plot takes place in the Public Gardens where a band plays and people gather on Sundays.

Narrator and Point of View

Third-person, free indirect discourse

Tone and Mood

Tone- detached
Mood- melancholy

Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonist - Miss Brill, Antagonist - the young French couple

Major Conflict

Miss Brill experiences inclusion in a scene which seems to be based on observation and awareness of others' presence within it, but she becomes hurt because of gossip about her.


The climax occurs as Miss Brill notices the full extent to which those around her are acting out their roles.


Foreshadowing is used as Miss Brill enjoys interacting with her ermine fur, a dead animal; we see from the beginning how strange she is in this regard.


The application of feelings to the fur is only noted a few times, but the external picture of this strange behavior drives the primary conflict. These moments are not drawn out in a way that shows their significance directly.


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 of individuals in the scene shows the breadth of Miss Brill's observation in order to set up her realization 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.


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 characteristic.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

The use of expression in the eyes of the ermine fur is synecdoche because it attaches humanity to the object of the fur in a specific way. "Sunday" is used to refer to the entire structure of socialization at the Public Gardens when the band is present on Sundays.


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.

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