Compare and contrast the character of Miss Brill in "Miss Brill" with the character of Emily Grierson in “A Rose for Emily."

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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These are two great characters to compare and contrast. The first way in which both Miss Brill and Emily Grierson can be compared is through the solitude in which they live their lives. Let us remember that for vast stretches of her life, Miss Emily has led a quiet, undisturbed existence, with hardly anybody even entering her house, let alone having friends. Indeed, part of the myth surrounding her is a result of her solitude in her life. The opening paragraph of the story tells us that nobody save for an old manservant had even entered her house in the last ten years of her life. The way in which Emily Grierson rejects other humans and lives her life alone shows the way in which she is a solitary figure, however, and this is the key difference between the two characters, this is a solitude she has desired and embraced.

Miss Brill, by contrast, is shown to be a lonely figure, but this solitude is something that she definitely does not want and fills her with great sadness. What is interesting about Miss Brill is the way in which she leads a fantasy life that allows her to believe that her existence has some importance. The elaborate play that she believes goes on in the park means that she can convince herself that she matters and she can deny her lonely existence:

They were all on the stage. They weren't only the audience, not only looking on; they were acting. Even she had a part and came every Sunday. No doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn't been there; she was part of the performance, after all.

Note the elaborate fabrication Miss Brill creates to convince herself that she is important and that others recognise her importance. All the time, however, she lives in a small room that is "like a dark cupboard" and has no real friends or purpose in life. Whilst she can be compared to Miss Emily in the way that she is a solitary figure, this is definitely not something that Miss Brill desires, and it brings her tremendous sadness, as the end of this story shows.