Is Miss Brill a spectator or an actor? What difference does her role make in how you think of Miss Brill?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Brill is both an actor and a spectator in the imaginary world that she fashions around the people observed at the Sunday concerts which she attends.

With respect to Miss Brill, author Katherine Manfield writes,

Without love, and without the comfort of illusions, the reality of life can be grim indeed.

  • Actress

Miss Brill creates illusions, and for this reason, she is an actress, a person outside "the reality of life." Before she even goes to the concert, she pulls out her fur necklet that she talks to, calling it "Little rogue!" It seems to bite its tail with its mouth and the "sad little eyes" ask "What has been happening to me?" reflecting the thoughts of Miss Brill.

Once at the concert, Miss Brill eagerly anticipates the conversations. She feigns not listening when she actually listens, "sitting in other people's lives just for a minute while they talked round her."

  • Spectator

In the episodes in which two girls pass with two young soldiers, laughing, followed by a peasant woman and a "cold, pale nun," who hurries past, and a beautiful woman who drops a bouquet of violets, Miss Brill is a spectator who does not "know whether to admire that or not." Then when a woman with an ermine toque creates a scenario for her, Miss Brill enjoys watching,

Oh, how fascinating it was!....How she loved sitting here, watching it all! It was a little play. It was exactly like a play.


As either spectator or actor, Miss Brill views nature as art through the perspective of her temperament. Sadly, when the young man ridicules her and destroys her illusion of his being Romeo and his girlfriend's being Juliet, she returns home defeated as both actress and spectator, retiring to her lonely "cupboard" of an apartment.