What is the issue of morality in ''The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie''?

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Miss Jean Brodie is an avant garde teacher at a private school for girls in Scotland, the Marcia Blaine School for Girls. As such, she "collects" certain girls that she feels are worthy and takes them under her wing. They are known as the Brodie Set. Miss Brodie attempts to manipulate two of the girls, Sandy Stranger and Rose Stanley, to have an affair with the art teacher, Teddy Lloyd. Miss Brodie has an affair with him herself, but breaks it off because he is married. She then tries to relive the affair vicariously through Sandy and Rose. Sandy does wind up having an affair with him.

Miss Brodie also has an affair with Gordon Lowther, the school's music teacher, but refuses to marry him. She carries on with him, in his home on weekends, while "her girls" are in the same home.

All of this is very problematic for a woman who is supposed to be a role model for teen girls, especially at the very exclusive private school. Miss Brodie does not seem to care about the effects her sexual exploits may have on her girls. In the novel, teachers are held to a higher standard because of their positions as role models for young people, and when they carry on like common hussies, this would have been considered immoral for the time period. It's immoral for today, as well. That is why we are still shocked when we hear in the media about teachers having affairs with students.

Miss Brodie also has a moral, or perhaps ethical/professional responsibility to look out for the girls' welfare. This she does not always do. Miss Brodie is idealistic to a fault when it comes to politics. Her out-of-touch-with-reality quality leads her to tempt a new girl, Joyce Emily Hammond, to leave school, run away to Spain, and join her brother, who is fighting there with Franco's forces. Joyce Emily dies on the way.

If Miss Brodie were truly a moral woman, she would have been more in touch with the idealistic nature of teen girls and she would never have discussed such things with Joyce Emily. As a teacher, she should have realized how her ideals and teachings affected the girls that idolized her. Instead, she is more intent on living through them because, even though she is fond of telling the girls that she has devoted herself to them "in her prime", she is really devoted to herself. How moral is that?

What do YOU think?

Read about the novel here on enotes.


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