What function does Miss Brill's fur piece play in the story, does it function as a character?
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In the opening paragraph Mansfield makes clear that Miss Brill is in the Jardins Publiques and, therefore, somewhere in France: in a small town, it seems, since the Sunday band concert is a big feature of local life.
In paragraph 6 we learn that the sea is visible from the park. We also know that the season is autumn. Miss Brill has taken her fur out of its box for the first time in a long while.
She seems happy with her lot even though her daily activities are drab by most standards and her pleasures are small ones. Her well-worn fur delights her, and an almond in the Sunday honey-cake is cause for rejoicing.
Miss Brill's fur, though apparently taken out only for a short time, represents a projection of herself onto something inanimate to take the pressures of life off of her. It is this unburdening that enable her to function throughout the story.
Miss Brill, who loves her fur as if it were a living pet or companion, is probably capable of thinking it was that “little rogue” she heard crying over the cruelty of the young couple in the park. It’s possible, too, to believe that Miss Brill actually does hear a sound and that the “something crying” is herself.
Miss Brill's fur necklet functions as a characterization device. Since Miss Brill owns the necklet, we know something about her social class, her tastes, and her habits. Her living situation, her one room ("little dark room--her room like a cupboard") tells us abut her economic class, and this can be compared to her tastes to reveal her original social class. Only the monetarily well-to-do can afford the luxury of a fur, even if only a necklet, thus it seems that at one time Miss Brill had a more prosperous life that accommodated a fur necklet.
Her manner of thinking about the fur tells us also about her personality.
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.
It reveals she is pleasant and good natured and content even though her life is constrained. It also tells us she is careful and thinks well of her belongings, represented by her necklet and her red silk eiderdown comforter. This attitude of thinking well of her things carries over to her with the inference that she also thinks well of herself: she has managed well despite probable reversals, enjoys her few luxuries (like the concert and her "slice of honey-cake at the baker's") and is happy.
Miss Brill does treat her necklet as a friend,
Miss Brill put up her hand and touched her fur. Dear little thing! It was nice to feel it again.
thus as a minor character, particularly as the story concludes with her feeling that her necklet is crying. All these factors combine to result in the crushing blow Miss Brill feels from the callousness of the "hero and heroine" in the park: her image of managing well and her feeling of comfort and pleasure in her little furry necklet are turned to dust and delusion by the view into the young people's perception of her since they see her as aged, pathetic, and out of date.
"Because of that stupid old thing at the end there?" asked the boy. "Why does she come here at all--who wants her? Why doesn't she keep her silly old mug at home?"
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