Miss Brill Questions and Answers
by Katherine Mansfield

Miss Brill book cover
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In the story "Miss Brill," it says, "...she unclasped the necklet quickly, without looking, laid it inside. But, when she put the lid on, she thought she heard something crying." What does this quotation mean, and why does it matter?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When she returns home after her weekly trip to the park, Miss Brill's in a dejected mood. The staged little fantasy world that she'd built for herself has come crashing down, and all because of some hurtful, insensitive remarks made by a couple of "performers" in the drama of her mind's eye. The eccentric Miss Brill leads a sad, lonely, isolated existence in Paris. Her weekly excursions to the bandstand in the park were about the only thing in life that connected her to the people around her. But once the brutal truth about how other people really feel about Miss Brill is revealed, the park is no longer a haven of rest, repose, and enjoyment; it has become a place of public humiliation.

Now that one of her few pleasures in life has been so cruelly and suddenly snatched away from her, Miss Brill has nothing left to live for. It's no wonder, then, that on returning home, she quickly puts aside that item—the fur—which was such an essential part of her "costume," the one she wore each week to the concert. She was playing a part in a drama of her own making; but now that she's been publicly humiliated, and now that the last act of her drama has come to an end, Miss Brill has no further need of the costume. When she puts away the fur in its box, it's almost as if she can hear it crying. But it's not the long dead animal that's crying, but Miss Brill's tortured soul, weeping at the loss of what little she had in life.

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prof19010 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Katherine Mansfield's Miss Brill is truly a story of denial. The main character is in complete denial of the loneliness and isolation from which she suffers. Throughout the story, she people watches and judges certain characters without realizing the things she finds odd or off about them are qualities she herself has, such as the odd people she sees who are alone at the park. Even the woman with the ermine toque is practically a mirror image of Miss Brill.

When she gets home and puts the fur away, she thinks she hears it crying. But what if it is her that is crying, and her denial is in such an advanced state that she refuses to admit that it is her crying that she hears? That is what I have always thought about the end.

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