Miss Brill

Youth and Age Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
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Delusion and Reality Theme Icon
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Youth and Age Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Miss Brill, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Youth and Age Theme Icon

Miss Brill’s strange behavior of talking to her fur coat can be seen as her nostalgia for a lost youth, when her coat was new and she was at the hopeful age of marriageability (in Mansfield’s time women were married at quite a young age, and not getting married was so looked down upon that spinsters were pitied and shut out of a great deal of social life). As Miss Brill sits in the stands she notices that everyone sitting around her looks just about the same: “odd, silent, nearly all old.” These are people who have been relegated to the sidelines, marginalized and ignored by society, and the story connects that marginalization with being old.

Though Miss Brill’s description of these people could just as well be applied to herself, through much of the story she does not recognize this. The story can be seen as Miss Brill’s awakening toward her understanding of her irrelevance and marginalization in society – her oldness. The silent old woman and old man next to her leave and, in their stead, come a young girl and boy who dismiss Miss Brill, call her a “fried whiting” – a cooked fish. This brushoff represents the way generations succeed each other, and how the young often disdain the old. At the end of the story, when she places her fur coat back in the box, the action suggests a kind of retirement for the coat, which Miss Brill finally sees as old and worn—just like her.

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Youth and Age ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Youth and Age appears in each chapter of Miss Brill. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Youth and Age Quotes in Miss Brill

Below you will find the important quotes in Miss Brill related to the theme of Youth and Age.
Miss Brill Quotes

And when she breathed, something light and sad—no, not sad, exactly—something gentle seemed to move in her bosom.

Related Characters: Miss Brill
Related Symbols: Fur Coat and Garments
Page Number: 298
Explanation and Analysis:
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She had become really quite expert, she thought, at listening as though she didn’t listen, at sitting in other people’s lives just for a minute while they talked round her.

Related Characters: Miss Brill
Page Number: 299
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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 Symbols: Fur Coat and Garments
Page Number: 300
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Oh, how fascinating it was...It was exactly like a play.

Related Characters: Miss Brill (speaker)
Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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.

Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:
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“Why does she come here at all—who wants her? Why doesn’t she keep her silly old mug at home?”
“It’s her fu-ur which is so funny,” giggled the girl. “It’s exactly like a fried whiting.”

Related Characters: Boy and Girl (speaker), Miss Brill
Page Number: 302
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

She unclasped the necklet quickly; quickly, without looking, laid it inside. But when she put the lid on she thought she heard something crying.

Related Characters: Miss Brill
Related Symbols: Fur Coat and Garments
Page Number: 302
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile