In the short story, “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield, the main character, Miss Brill, is developed with the use to symbols and patterns of metaphors. The story is about Miss Brill’s routine on Sundays, and how she is interpreting the world around her, and her role in it. The main metaphors that are used are her fur coat, the old people, and her seat. All these metaphors help show that Miss Brill doesn’t live life, but only views it.
Miss Brill’s fur coat is introduced in the first paragraph of the story. She personifies the fur, and projects some of her own personalities and interests into it. “She had taken it out of its box that afternoon, shaken out the moth powder, given it a good brush, and rubbed the life back into the dim little eyes”(Mansfield p.357). Later, Miss Brill further characterizes the fur coat and states that is a “little rogue”, which further laments her personification of the fur. Furthermore, she feels that she is attracted to the personified fur, “She could have taken it off and laid it on her lap and stroked it” (Mansfield p.357). The fur coat is a metaphor for her, or what she sees attractive in herself.
She if old, so is the fur coat “..shaken out the moth powder..”(Mansfield p.357); she likes to dress up and use makeup, just like what she does to the fur coat “..a little dab of black sealing-wax..” (Mansfield p.357). She views the world around her as it passes by, but never experiencing it for herself, similar to an inanimate object, such as her fur coat. This point is reinforced further at the end of the story, when she has been ridiculed, and is putting away her coat away; “But when she put the lid on she thought she heard something crying” (Mansfield p.361). The author tells the reader that the fur is crying, but the metaphor shows that it is Miss Brill that is crying.
Similarly, “the old people sat on the bench, still as statues”, is also a metaphor for Miss Brill. She is one of the old people sitting on the benches, watching everyone else. It is ironic, because she seems to dislike these people, but at the same time, she is one of them; “They were odd, silent, nearly all old” (Mansfield p.358). Miss Brill, like the other old people, is peculiar, quiet, and old. What she sees in these people, is what the reader sees in her. This metaphor symbolizes what she is in reality and what other people in the story see her as; “Because of that stupid old thing at the end there..” (Mansfield p.360) is what a young couple says when they see Miss Brill. The old people symbolize the old pathetic nature of Miss Brill’s routine of viewing everyone else’s experiences, but never experiencing herself.
Finally, the symbol of her “special seat” is the most important and drives home the point of Miss Brill never experiencing life. The seat symbolizes her vantage point of the world. The metaphor of a play is also used, but they both symbolize the same thing; they are both her eyepieces to the rest of the world, and this is how she can experience life, instead of doing it herself. “How she enjoyed it! How she loved sitting here, watching it all! It was like a play” (Mansfield p.359). Furthermore, she feels that she is living life and experiencing everything, because Miss Brill feels that she is apart of the play “They weren’t only the audience….they were acting” (Mansfield p.359). The author effectively uses the metaphor of her “special seat” and of a play to symbolize Miss Brill’s character, and how she feels that she is fully living life, but actually, she is only watching.
Throughout the short story “Miss Brill”, by Katherine Mansfield, three important symbols are used to characterize Miss Brill; they are the fur, the old people, and her “special seat”. All these show that Miss Brill is a watcher, who experience life through watching.
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