Of what importance to the story is the woman in the ermine toque?
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The woman in the ermine toque and the gentlemen she is meeting are two of several characters in the “play” of life that Miss Brill enjoyed watching every day. The “ermine toque” woman is used to foreshadow what will eventually happen to Miss Brill herself – rejection. The “ermine toque” lady seems to be pitiful, just like Miss Brill. Her hair used to be yellow, but now “her hair, her face, even her eyes, was the same color as the shabby ermine” and her gloved hand that she reached up to dab her lips with was also a “yellowish paw. She was pleased to see the gentlemen, but apparently he was not pleased to see her. She begins talking to him, chattering, but then he shakes his head, lights a cigarette, blows the smoke into her face and leaves.
The smoke he blows in her face, I think, is symbolic of the insult that the young couple direct at Miss Brill later in the story. They make fun of her, they think she is a pitiful old woman, why in the world does she even come to the park, and her fur is ridiculous. She leaves, dejected. That insult is even worse than the smoke blown in the face of the “ermine toque.”
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