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Imagery And Symbolism In Katherine Mansfield's Miss Brill

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Katherine Mansfield’s “Miss Brill” exhibits an elderly English teacher who is gradually losing touch with the world and her own life. At the commencement of the plot her character is shrouded in ambiguity, but as the reader witnesses her interactions in daily life more aspects of her character are revealed. Miss Brill’s fur coat, her value of clothing, and other objects in the story symbolize facets of her personality and develop her character.

Miss Brill’s fur coat symbolizes the poor state of her life. Her coat is dilapidated, with “sad little eyes” (Mansfield, 328) and a nose that isn’t “at all firm” (328), and her life is also deteriorated in a similar manner. She lives alone, in a “little dark room” (331) and does odd jobs to maintain financial stability. She does, however, rationalize that her fur is fine, saying “never mind- a little dab of black sealing-wax” (328) will fix the nose, and also deludes herself into thinking that her life is full of wonderment and importance. She fantasizes about telling the invalid man she reads the newspaper to that he is “having the paper read to him by an actress” (330),
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The image of a cupboard is prevalent in the text, being used to describe Miss Brill’s room, and those of the other elderly people at the park. She is confined in this “cupboard” (331), and her fur is kept in a box, similar to a cupboard as well. As she first removes the fur from it’s box after a long period of isolation, it asks her “what has been happening to me?” (328), as if it is aware of its own desolation. Seeing as Miss Brill has a connection to this fur, she is also subconsciously aware of her own loneliness. This is also signified by the interest she takes in a woman in an ermine toque, who bears a striking resemblance to herself. This woman’s “hair, her face, even her eyes, [are] the same color as [her] shabby ermine” (330), and she faces rejection from a
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