Miss Brill

Miss Brill Quotes and Analysis

Little rogue! Yes, she really felt like that about it. Little rogue biting its tail just by her left ear. She could have taken it off and laid it on her lap and stroked it.


This quote sets up Miss Brill's relation to her ermine fur. The short story begins with the character living out her weekly ritual and getting ready to enjoy the public gardens. Now that the air is just a bit chilly, she can pull out her old fur and spruce it up. The personification here develops further as Miss Brill envisions interacting with the preserved animal; as readers, we see her thought process as she refers to her fur and then emphasizes how she feels. It is clear already that she is a quirky woman, somewhat prone to interior dialogue, but by the end of the story it will be even clearer just how identified with the fur she is.

Only two people shared her 'special' seat: a fine old man in a velvet coat, his hands clasped over a huge carved walking-stick, and a big woman, sitting upright, with a roll of knitting on her embroidered apron.


This quote takes place just before Miss Brill recognizes her position in this microcosm of society. The end of the sentence shows the type of detail she observes, which progresses from physical attributes of the individual she notices (as in "fine old" man and "big" woman) to state of being (as in "hands clasped" and the sitting position of the woman) to the individuals' activities. Initially, these sorts of details make the reader assume that Miss Brill is particularly attentive, but as the story proceeds it becomes clear that she is a somewhat judgmental observer given to flights of fancy, and we cannot fully take her cogitations at face value.

Behind the rotunda the slender trees with yellow leaves down drooping, and through them just a line of sea, and beyond the blue sky with gold-veined clouds.


This piece of imagery is significant because of how it sets the stage—literally—for Miss Brill's interpretation of the situation as theater. Through the narrator's stream-of-consciousness, she notices distance in multiple ways; the placement of the trees "behind the rotunda" and the sea's line further suggesting distance leads to the blue sky with clouds, which is later seen in Miss Brill's mind as a painted wall. What the narrator might want us to understand as a simple explanation of the setting of the story becomes more complicated when Miss Brill decides to interpret it in a wholly different way.

The tune lifted, lifted, the light shone; and it seemed to Miss Brill that in another moment all of them, all the whole company, would begin singing.

Narrator, p. 3

Miss Brill is part of the scene yet outside of it. She seems to predict elements of the gathering; for instance, she thinks the "flutey" part of the song is going to repeat itself, and she thinks the company will all sing and she will as well. She also makes assertions about the scene, such as the band not caring "how it played if there weren't any strangers present" and sympathizing with the scorned woman by playing a note like "the brute!" None of this is likely true at all, but the narrator sets up an interesting juxtaposition between the reality we are trying to grasp and what our guide, Miss Brill, thinks she knows and sees.

Now everything, her hair, her face, even her eyes, was the same colour as the shabby ermine...


This might be the first time some readers start to realize that Miss Brill's observations of people are a little cruel, a little off, and a little hypocritical. She does not seem to notice that this woman is a prostitute. She is very mean about what she is wearing, assuming rudely that the woman bought the toque way back when her "hair was yellow." And, in a nice example of dramatic irony, Miss Brill doesn't seem to realize at all that her attire is also shabby. After all, she had "rubbed the life back into the dim little eyes" of her fur that morning, and noticed that its nose "wasn't at all firm." If this wasn't enough to suggest that Miss Brill shouldn't call the kettle black, the young woman laughs that her fur looks like "a fried whiting."