What is Miss Brill doing in the first paragraph of "Miss Brill"?

Quick answer:

The first paragraph of "Miss Brill" describes her talking to and stroking her fox fur as if it were a live pet. This helps to establish Miss Brill as a rather sad and lonely character.

Expert Answers

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As the story begins, it's a beautiful sunny day in Paris. The clear blue sky is "powdered with gold" and there are "great spots of light" splashed over the Jardins Publiques, where Miss Brill is going to visit, as she does every Sunday.

Even so, there's a slight chill in the air that makes it necessary for Miss Brill to wear her fox fur. In the opening paragraph, we're told how Miss Brill opened the box containing the fur; how she took out the fur, shook off the moth-powder, and gave it a good brushing, rubbing back the life into the dim little eyes.

Although the creature has long since gone to fox heaven, Miss Brill treats it as if it were still alive. She pats him, strokes him, and impersonates the little baby voice that she imagines the fox's eyes would have if they could talk:

"What has been happening to me?" said the sad little eyes.

Miss Brill's interactions with the fox fur tell us a lot about what kind of person she is. Straight away, we get the distinct impression that we're dealing with a sad, lonely old lady who doesn't have much contact with other people. Our initial impressions are confirmed when Miss Brill heads off on her weekly jaunt to the Jardins Publiques, accompanied by her fox fur.

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