What details can you infer about Miss Brill from the quote "She had become really quite expert...talked round her"?

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sagesource eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The full passage is as follows:

She had become really quite expert, she thought, at listening as though she didn't listen, at sitting in other people's lives just for a minute while they talked round her.

This statement shows how Miss Brill has come to believe that she stands apart from her social context and has complete control and mastery of all that is occuring around her. She lives alone, and this feeling is the way she has turned her solitary life into something valuable and special. She has even developed the illusion that she is a sort of director or conductor and that everything she sees is an elaborate play or show that is being put on for her benefit. This is why the criticism of the young couple is so shattering -- it reveals brutally to her that they consider her a tiresome and despicable nuisance, someone who spoils the "play" by her presence, rather than a detached master or conductor.

epollock | Student


Katherine Mansfield's "Miss Brill" is a classic short story of a sympathetic protagonist who lives a life of loneliness. Because we experience the day’s happenings from the perspective of Miss Brill, we come to understand and to sympathize with the sweet old lady, even go along with her sudden view of herself as an actress in a play performed very Sunday. To an intense degree we share her dismay and hurt when she overhears herself called a “stupid old thing” and her furpiece ridiculed as “exactly like a fried whiting.”

Because she lives on the fringes of life in her small French town, Miss Brill regards her solitary Sundays in the park as the highlight of her week. Here, watching the people who
come and go and eavesdropping on their conversations, she feels a connection with her fellow human beings. The smallest details about them excite her interest.

She comes to feel herself one of them, an actor in life’s drama. So caught up does she become in the sudden revelation that all the world’s a stage and that she, like everyone else, has a part to play, that she has a mystical experience. In her mind, she merges with the other players, and “it seemed to Miss Brill that in another moment all of them, all the whole company, would begin singing” (Chapter10).