Essay about Illusion versus Reality in Miss Brill

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Illusion versus Reality in Miss Brill

Is it really "okay" to talk to yourself as long as you don't talk back? Well, what if your fur piece talks back? In Katherine Mansfield's short story, "Miss Brill," it is a quickly established fact that Miss Brill has an odd relationship with her fur necklet (440). But it is the author's descriptive use of symbolism that provides a deeper understanding of Miss Brill's personality. Katherine Mansfield creates the woman in the ermine toque (441) in similarity to Miss Brill to reveal Miss Brill's identity in connection with her own fur piece and invite comparison, which further illustrates Miss Brill's perception of reality.

Introduced in the story as simply "an ermine toque"
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So when "the sad little eyes" ask, "What has been happening to me?" (440), it is equivalent to a sad-eyed Miss Brill asking herself that same question. Mansfield stresses the importance of evaluating the ''ermine toque'' (441) as a symbol by making her the only other character besides Miss Brill who is wearing a fur. However, this is not the only character fact the two women share.

Intending to further define Miss Brill's bizarre personality and perception of life, Katherine Mansfield creates the woman in the ermine toque in similarity to Miss Brill. Miss Brill's description of this woman demonstrates that the two women share several character facts. Not only are both women wearing furs, but both women have possessed the furs for some time. Miss Brill refers to the ermine, an originally white fur, as being "shabby" and having turned "yellowish" (441), a color such a fur would turn with age. Miss Brill's own fur is old enough to require "a dab of black sealing wax" on the nose to revive its look from time to time (440). By saying that the woman wearing the ermine hat has taken on the same color of the fur (441), Miss Brill suggests that the woman herself has moved on in years. Miss Brill's own age, which is implied throughout the text, is distastefully proclaimed by the boy in the park, who refers to Miss Brill as "that stupid old thing" (443). Most importantly,
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