Describe Miss Brill’s situation. What does the reader know about her life? What does she do on days of the week other than Sunday? Why is her Sunday routine important to her?
Why is this particular Sunday better than usual? What is the season of the year? What details show that Miss Brill is very familiar with the weekly scene?
What is Miss Brill’s primary interest, and why is the Jardins Publiques on Sunday a good time and place to satisfy it? What particular skill has she developed, and why does it give her such pleasure?
What kind of people usually sit on the benches and chairs? What do they tend to have in common with Miss Brill?
While sitting on the bench viewing the scene before her, what sudden insight, what new perspective does Miss Brill gain about the world and her relation to it? What one line sums it up? How does it affect her? Who are “all the other members of the company”?
When Miss Brill overhears the young couple ridicule her, how is the poignant effect of the scene intensified by contrast with what has come before? How has she become more vulnerable that she might have been?
Notice that Miss Brill’s feelings, when she reaches her room, are understated. At the end of the story, she thinks she hears “something crying”, something that has been mentioned before. What is it? How does it symbolize Miss Brill herself?
2. Point of view1
This story is told in the third person, but what is the point of view? Is it omniscient; that is, does the narrator reveal the thoughts and feelings of all the characters? Is there anything the reader is told aside from what Miss Brill sees, hears, feels, and thinks? Is she describes at all from the outside? Explain.
1Point of view The relationship of the narrator to the story. In a story with first-person point of view, the narrator is a character in the story, referred to as “I.”
The reader sees everything through that character’s eyes. In a story with third-person limited point of view, the narrator reveals the thoughts, feelings, and observations of only one character, referring to that character as “he” or “she”. In a story with third-person omniscient, or all-knowing, point of view, the narrator is not a character in the story, but someone who stands outside the story and comments on the action. A third-person omniscient narrator knows everything about the characters and events and may reveal details that the characters themselves could not reveal.
3. Stream of consciousness is the technique of presenting directly the flow of thoughts, responses, and sensations of a character. Stream of consciousness is both a narrative technique and a method of characterization and is common in the poems, novels, and short stories of the twentieth century.
In this story, what does the reader, sharing Miss Brill’s inner thoughts and feelings, learn about her? What is shown, for example, in the first five paragraphs, by her thoughts about her fur, the music, her own habit of eavesdropping, the couple who shared her bench the preceding Sunday, and the other people on the benches? What kind of things does she tend to notice about people, and to what degree does she emphasize? What does this indicate about her character? What is the significance of what she does on other days of the week? In general, what are the qualities with which she faces the world and by which she compensates for the fact that she is old and alone? To what extend is she a pathetic character, a helpless victim, ignorant of the cause of her pain, who arouses pity, sorrow, sympathy or compassion in the reader?
One of the benefits of literature is that allows the reader to see the world more clearly, to understand and feel more deeply our common humanity. If the story or a poem is successful, it will leave the reader with some small but perceptible gain in empathy or understanding. With this in mind, describe the effect of this story on you, doe it have a “moral”? If you didn’t like the story, describe its effect and try to analyze the reasons why you reacted negatively.