At the start of the story, Miss Brill
speaks fondly to her coat as if it is alive. This strange behavior can be seen as reflecting her nostalgia for a lost youth, when her coat was new and she was at the hopeful age of marriageability At the end of the story, she puts it back into its box, “without looking”, and “she thought she heard something crying”. This arc from fond engagement with her fur coat
to her final rejection of it mirrors how she feels about her own place in society over the course of the story: at first she thinks she is part of the community, a participant in the scene she sees around her, but at the end of the story, after she is rejected by the boy
, she concludes that she is not important to anyone else at all. The fur coat in which she delights, she sees in that moment, is actually rather shabby and old, and Miss Brill puts away her coat with the same callousness exhibited by the boy, while its “crying” reflects her own despair. Garments in general in the story – such as the ermine toque
, the conductor’s coat, or the boy
beautiful clothes – serve as a marker of class and importance in the story: if you are not well-dressed, you are not well-regarded either.