Miss Brill Major Character Analysis
Miss Brill Optimistic, watchful, and sensitive, Miss Brill lives one life in her head and another life in truth. Because of the isolation and absence of friends that characterize her reality, she develops an abundant internal life, substituting real relationships with those she eavesdrops on during her Sundays in the park, and even personifying her fox fur necklet as a “rogue” buddy. Yet Miss Brill’s focus on the appeal around her, her understanding and awareness of her own sensations, and her detailed observations of others show that she is not entirely delusional.
Miss Brill picks to see her life in enthusiastic terms and to make the most of her life, in spite of her poverty and isolation. Though she lives in a pleasant dream-world of her own making, her dream-world consists of efforts to get in touch with others and to see herself as making a positive contribution to society. In truth, she may be thought about a bad, lonely, useless, old woman, but her efforts to see herself as deserving, as somebody with a contribution to make in the world, seems brave, not outrageous.
The world, on the other hand, appears cruel, as personified by the vibrant lovers who maliciously insult Miss Brill, taking her humanity from her and stripping her of self-respect and value. Her emotional devastation is as much an outcome of the awareness of the ruthlessness in the world as it is a realization of her true circumstance. Miss Brill knows her real circumstance; she just chooses to neglect it until it is forced upon her. Much of the pathos and compassion generated by Miss Brill involves the reader’s recognition that all human beings share Miss Brill’s need for connection and belonging.
Boy One of the set of lovers who sit down next to Miss Brill is a young man and Miss Brill instantly casts him in the function of hero in her internal drama. Nevertheless, he is a rude and heedless individual, oblivious to the feelings of others. Angry with his sweetheart since she will not say she loves him, he takes his anger out on Miss Brill. Welldressed and well-off, in addition to being young and in love, he insults Miss Brill, seeing only an old, poor, unappealing, undesirable lady, sitting in a park alone on a Sunday afternoon. He does not recognize, as Miss Brill and the reader do, his own good luck.
His wealth, his youth, and his love safeguard him from the isolation experienced by Miss Brill. His remarks force Miss Brill out of her dream world and she sees herself as he sees her: old, lonely, and undesirable. His comments, in addition to his sweetheart’s buffooning comments, create the climax of the story. Ironically, Miss Brill ends up being an unwitting actress in this couple’s drama. Young Woman Cast by Miss Brill in the role of heroine when she takes a seat with her boy, this girl soon exposes an uglier side of herself.
After her boy insults Miss Brill since he is mad with her, the girl further distracts him from his anger by similarly insulting Miss Brill. She mocks Miss Brill’s fur, saying that its mottled surface appears like a piece of fried fish. Her thoughtless ruthlessness matches her partner’s.
Secured by her youth, evident wealth, and the love of a young man, she too fails to extend empathy to Miss Brill. Rather, she utilizes her for her own functions, exposing how people cast others into roles within their own psychological lives and dramas. Miss Brill tried to integrate these youths into her internal drama, but she finds herself thrust into an unpleasant function on this couple’s psychological phase.