How do the details of the setting establish qualities and traits of Miss Brill in "Miss Brill" by Mansfield.

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nowhere is this question more relevant than in the painful and poignant ending of this excellent short story, where Miss Brill is forced to realise how her lodgings reflect the emptiness of her life, which is void and meaningless of purpose. There is an intense irony in this, as, at the beginning of the story, as Miss Brill sits on her bench and watches other people who come every Sunday, just as Miss Brill does, she comments about them:

They were 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!

The irony lies in the way in which Miss Brill is able to notice the way that others are oppressed and meaningless in their lives, as reflected by the "dark little rooms" from which they emerge, every Sunday, and yet is blind to her own meaningless existence. This is an irony that is reinforced at the end of the story, after Miss Brill has overheard the couple insult her and goes back to her home in tears and depressed. Note how this is described:

But today she passed the baker's by, climbed the stairs, went into the little dark room--her room like a cupboard--and sat down on the red eiderdown.

She, just like the other people she looks at when she arrives at the park, has an equally empty and meaningless life, and this is reflected in the description of her room being "like a cupboard" and being described as a "little dark room." The use of repetition yields fascinating discoveries about her character.