The scene in which the majority of the story takes place is the Jardins Publiques, a public park in France. The day is "brilliantly fine" with a blue sky that is flecked with gold and "great spots of light" that the narrator likens to splashes of white wine. A live band plays while Miss Brill sits on her "'special'" bench (which she always occupies) and watches the wide variety of passers-by. It's a Sunday, and a great many people have come out to enjoy the music and the day. She notices, however, that most of the people sitting on the other benches are "odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they'd just come from dark little rooms or even -- even cupboards!" Miss Brill notices the thin trees and the yellowed leaves, the sea in the distance, and the lovely sky, but she doesn't seem to notice that she is very similar to these old folks that she describes until a young couple sits next to her. The boy speaks disparagingly of her, calling her "old" and "stupid," and she soon gets up to go home.
The action of "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield occurs when a beautifully dressed couple appears in the park. Until that time, Miss Brill has been thoroughly enjoying her Sunday walk in the park, as she usually does. She listens to the band and observes various passersby while wearing her beloved fur coat.
Up until the appearance of the young couple, Miss Brill feels delighted in everything she sees, and she regards her walk in the park as a kind of play in which she plays a central role. She thinks, "No doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn't been there; she was part of the performance after all." As she deems herself central to the performance going on in the park, she leaves her house at the same time each day. She feels as though she is an actress on the stage and plays a critical role in the performance.
However, her illusion is shattered when the young couple appears on the scene during the part of the tale that represents the rising action of the story. They resent her presence, as they want to be alone. The boy refers to her "silly old mug," or face, and the girl compares Miss Brill's fur to a "fried whiting." When Miss Brill arrives home that evening, she does not stop at the bakery, as she usually does, and puts her fur away. As she does so, she hears "something crying." The callous remarks of the young couple have broken her enjoyment of the park and shaken her belief that she plays an important role in life. Instead, she feels shunted aside, and the reality of her life behind the illusion she has created sinks in.