Miss Brill

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Ermine toque and Gentleman in grey Character Analysis

Ermine is a type of white fur and a toque is a type of woman’s hat. Miss Brill identifies the woman by nothing more than her clothes, thus placing utmost importance on this aspect because she understands clothes as a mark of one’s importance in and engagement with society. Though the ermine toque and gentleman in grey speak pleasantly with one another, Miss Brill notices how the woman’s hair is faded into the same color as her hat, which is also worn-out.

Ermine toque and Gentleman in grey Quotes in Miss Brill

The Miss Brill quotes below are all either spoken by Ermine toque and Gentleman in grey or refer to Ermine toque and Gentleman in grey. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Miss Brill published in 1991.
Miss Brill Quotes

The ermine toque was alone; she smiled more brightly than ever. But even the band seemed to know what she was feeling and played more softly…What would she do? What was going to happen now?

Related Characters: Ermine toque and Gentleman in grey
Related Symbols: Fur Coat and Garments
Page Number: 300
Explanation and Analysis:

Like eavesdropping, Miss Brill's intense people-watching in the park is one of the ways she attempts to connect with others and counter her loneliness. Here, she watches a woman, reduced by Miss Brill to the ermine toque (small hat) she wears, solicit a gentleman who immediately rejects her. 

Following the rejection, Miss Brill romanticizes the scene, dramatically wondering what the girl will do next or what will happen next, as if what she has witnessed is part of an entertaining play. Her observation that the band is playing to musical score to reflect the woman's rejection further hints at Miss Brill's fantasized theatricality. 

In the bustle of the garden and its many people, it is important to note that Miss Brill noticed this moment in particular. It is likely she identifies with the ermine toque, who not only also wears fur, but experiences social rejection--the very thing Miss Brill avoids through her self-delusions and is forced to confront at the story's end, when she too is rejected. 


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They were all on the stage. They weren’t only the audience, not only looking on; they were acting. Even she had a part and came every Sunday.

Related Characters: Miss Brill, Ermine toque and Gentleman in grey
Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:

By reworking the reality of the garden and its people into the fantasy of a play, Miss Brill is able to discard her sense of loneliness, casting herself as one of many in a community of "actors." Miss Brill's perception of herself as having a part in the scene around her--a recurring part at that--not only connects her with others, but also gives her a sense of importance among them.

Just as all parts in a play, however small, serve some integral function to the whole show, so too has Miss Brill reinvented herself as essential to the lives of the people around her. Under the guise of a play and actors, Miss Brill is able to perceive herself as necessary and special to the community, when in reality, seemingly no one else perceives her in this light. 

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Ermine toque and Gentleman in grey Character Timeline in Miss Brill

The timeline below shows where the character Ermine toque and Gentleman in grey appears in Miss Brill. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Miss Brill
Delusion and Reality Theme Icon
Connectedness Theme Icon
Youth and Age Theme Icon
...little boy picks them up for her, after which the woman throws them away. Suddenly an ermine toque [which describes a type of white fur hat] and a gentleman in grey meet in... (full context)