The story’s opening line combines metaphor with a simile to pack a great deal of meaning into a very efficient economy of words. “Although it was so brilliantly fine—the blue sky powdered with gold and great spots of light like white wine splashed over the Jardins Publiques—Miss Brill was glad that she had decided on her fur.” The precision of detail of the metaphorical powdering of the sky and light compared to the color of wine sets the stage for the great wealth of equally meticulous imagery that will be used to convey meaning rather that omniscient description of what is Miss Brill thinks or believes. The fact that these details indicate very strongly that the climate is not exactly ideal for wearing fur hints strongly at the meaning Miss Brill attaches to that item.
One particular simile is one of the less imaginative comparisons Miss Brill makes through figurative imagery. However, the atypical precision in her detail is telling. “The old people sat on the bench, still as statues. Never mind, there was always the crowd to watch.” Comparing inanimate humans to statues certainly lacks the reach of her descriptions of the woman with the fur toque or the children playing in the park, but Miss Brill is a fan of action. Preferring the dramatic tension of the stage, she expresses little patience or use for fine arts like sculpting. Or, then again, maybe she sees too much of herself in these old people behaving like sculpture and prefers not to look inward by looking outward at those like herself.
Simile: The Heroine's Comment
This is a simile not constructed by Miss Brill, but about her that becomes a turning point of the story and her life. The romantic heroes of her Sunday theater of the mind are played by a young couple she has cast based, of course, on their appearance. They are dressed in fine clothes so in her mind that equates with a fine character. The wisdom of that assumption is proved cruelly misplaced when the girl mocks Miss Brill’s beloved fur by saying it looks like a dull piece of fried fish—a comparison that directly undermines her previously stated conviction that since she’d been coming to the park and sitting on the same bench for so long now, her absence would be noted if she ever failed to show up. The girl’s particular choice of a “fried whiting” as point of comparison to Miss Brill’s fur reveals her power of observation to be every bit as keen as Miss Brill's.
Miss Brill Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Miss Brill is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.