In lots of stories that Ive read, minor characters dont really have significant reason in the story. In Miss Brill, there are lots of minor characters and Katherine Mansfield creates them with reasons. Mansfield uses the minor characters to emphasize Miss Brills loneliness and isolation. They are divided into three groups: the passive and uncommunicative, the active and communicative, and finally, the young couple who is shown at the end.
The passive and uncommunicative group of people, especially the old English couple and the ermine toque reflect Miss Brills loneliness and isolation by their lacks of interaction. These people dont interact with others, and this isnt different from Miss Brill. The old couple who dont speak at all are the same as Miss Brill who keeps listening to the other people without any words on Sundays. The Englishman and his wife seem to talk each other. However, they, especially the old lady, only speak their words not to listen to the other. In other words, their conversation lacks interaction and Miss Brill also does. Besides, Mansfield uses these characters not only to reflect her loneliness but also to highlight it. Though theyre similar to Miss Brill, she doesnt want to hear and join them. She doesnt want to see the loneliness even from others because her own loneliness is enough. Her avoiding and denying the people is the same with her that makes an irony and highlights her loneliness significantly. And it makes her isolated even from the people like her. The ermine toque rather seems another self of Miss Brill. Shes rejected and looks shabby, odd and old and that is exactly same with Miss Brill. Already knowing that Miss Brill is lonely isolated and rejected from other people just like the ermine toque, we can feel sympathy toward Miss Brills loneliness and isolation when she just observes the ermine toque without recognizing that Miss Brills own life is just the same with her.
The active and communicative group of people such as the little children, the young girls and soldiers, and the beggar are in contrast to Miss Brill, since their brightness and interaction makes her loneliness and isolation prominent. This group of people is very social active and has someone with them, that is, they are so different from Miss Brill. Showing the people who are busy at interacting with others, Mansfield put the characters that dont interact and seem so boring and lonely like Miss Brill at the beginning and the end of the paragraph 8. It makes the lonely and isolated people look more dark and solitary. Moreover, Mansfield shows the beggar who is in lower social position than Miss Brill as the part of society which Miss Brill cant join. The extreme contrast of brightness and darkness makes the darkness even darker. Besides, Miss Brill envies brightness. It is the reason she always listens to their conversation. It makes Miss Brills loneliness and isolation more noticeable.
The young couple who makes fun of Miss Brill makes isolation even deeper by breaking her fantasy. Before this couple, she couldnt realize her loneliness and was happy with her fantasy. But by breaking her fantasy through insulting her fur, she has to face with the real life which is full of loneliness and isolation. The fantasy played a role as a defender of her from loneliness and isolation. But because she has to get out of it by force, her perception to despair caused by loneliness and isolation can be greater than the original. So after the young couple, we can notice the change of point of view. Before the conversation between the couple, Miss Brill opened her mind to the readers so we could know her mentality easily. However she stopped showing it right after the conversation. That is, she is isolated even from readers. We can sense that the shock caused by realizing her loneliness and isolation is very huge through her action like skipping her Sundays treat and throwing out her fur. The young couple has love which Miss Brill doesnt have, gives her a pain and deeper loneliness and isolation by their few light but cruel words which break Miss Brills fantasy.
In short, all the minor characters are concentrated on showing how Miss Brill is lonely and isolated and highlighting it with various ways. Mansfield does not create anything extra. All the characters are doing their best to show and emphasize her loneliness and isolation. Thus we can feel her loneliness and isolation more clearly and better.