What Is the Symbolism in “Miss Brill”?

The symbols in the short story “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield are Miss Brill’s fur, the box that houses the fur, the young woman in the ermine toque and the orchestra. The fur that Miss Brill wears is a symbol of her life and her feelings of inadequacy about it.

The fur is secreted away in a dark space, alone, until it is taken out and enjoyed. This symbolizes the actions of the story as Miss Brill leaves her small dark room and walks to the park during her typical Sunday outing. However, the fur also symbolizes those things that Miss Brill desires. Miss Brill describes the fur as a “rogue” or something likable that warrants companionship.

However, Miss Brill’s own life is full of loneliness. She desires companionship and wants to belong. This is the reason why she imagines that everyone at the park is an actor or actress in a play and she is the only one who can observe it. The young woman in the ermine toque also becomes a symbol of Miss Brill’s loneliness when the woman is rejected by her male companion. The shabbiness of the woman’s ermine toque symbolizes that of Miss Brill’s fur.

The music that the orchestra plays at the park symbolizes the feelings of happiness and underlying sadness that Miss Brill feels. However, Miss Brill is unable to confront her own feelings of sadness until the children make fun of her. This drives Miss Brill back to her dark room that is symbolized by the small box that she throws her fur into at the end of the story.