What specific details can you infer about Miss Brill's character in Mansfield's "Miss Brill"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The opening line allows us to infer quite a bit about Miss Brill's character traits. This first sentence informs us that Miss Brill is headed to the "Jardins Publiques" on an outing. In France, public gardens (jardins publiques) are often the estates of nobility that have been converted to public gardens. Throughout France, these are elegant, gracious, spacious gardens, if examples in Paris can be taken as a model. From this setting, we can infer that Miss Brill has a background that has given her elegant taste and that she appreciates the richly cultivated beauty of the Jardins Publiques to which she walks every Sunday.

We can also infer that she is content (or has been up until the day of the story) with the changing tides of the seasons and finds peace in each variation of season. We can infer this because of her stream of consciousness response, as reported by the limited third person narrator, to the chill in the early summer air in which she finds a poetic pleasure:

The air was motionless, but when you opened your mouth there was just a faint chill, like a chill from a glass of iced water before you sip ....

We know it is early summer because in her reported stream of consciousness she says it is the beginning of the season and that she anticipates the pleasures of the season with relish:

And the band sounded louder and gayer. That was because the Season had begun. ... although the band played all the year round ....

As an aside, this quote may be seen as symbolically indicating that, though Miss Brill is not yet really old, she is in the last breathe of vigor before the blazing sun of life burns her energy out and approaching winter chills her beyond the reach of a favored fox neck-fur.

We can further infer that even though her circumstances are now constrained and her present social class may not be what it once was, she is:

  • affectionate; "Dear little thing! It was nice to feel it again."
  • optimistic: "Never mind--a little dab of black sealing-wax when the time came ...."
  • cheerful: "the band sounded louder and gayer."
  • observant:"Wasn't the conductor wearing a new coat, too? She was sure it was new."
  • appreciative of beauty: "Now there came a little "flutey" bit--very pretty!--a little chain of bright drops."

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