Miss Brill, who lives a single and solitary life, finds a sense of fulfillment in her acts of observing and critiquing others at the Jardins Publiques [Public Gardens] where she "sit[s] in other people's lives just for a minute while they talk round her." At this listening and watching she considers herself an expert.
When Miss Brill arrives on Sunday she finds only two people who share her "special seat." There the wife of an old Englishman quibbles about purchasing eyeglasses, contending that it is a waste of time to buy them as they would slide down her nose, or break. Her husband patiently suggests different designs of glasses, but none will do. "Miss Brill wanted to shake her." As this couple sits quietly on the bench, Miss Brill notices other people:
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!
Certainly, this perception becomes one of Miss Brill's own self-evaluations and change of mood. For, after she returns "into the little dark room--her room like a cupboard"--she is very despondent.
In another instance, Miss Brill notices a woman wearing an ermine toque that she owned "when her hair was yellow," and a gentleman in gray. This woman is delighted that she has met him, describing where she had been, asking him also if he did not find the day charming. But, the man lights a cigarette, and
...even while she was still talking and laughing, flicked the match away and walked on.
Alone, the "ermine torque" smiles more vibrantly than ever. But, somehow the band seems to sense her real feelings and plays more softly. Even the drum beat seems to echo, "The Brute! The Brute!" repeatedly. Miss Brill wonders what the woman will do. "What was going to happen now?" But, just then, the woman raises her hand as though she'd seen some one else and walks away.
This scene with the woman wearing an old fur and the cruelty of the man with the cigarette is comparable to that of Miss Brill as she sits on the bench and the young man ridicules her while his girlfriend mocks her fur. When the equally deflated Miss Brill returns to her room, she strikes a match for her kettle "in quite a dashing way." This movement mimics the waving of the other woman. Then, she replaces the necklet quickly into its box. As she places the lid on the box, "she thought she heard something crying," much as the drums echo "The Brute!" and the band seems to sense her anguish.