At issue in this short novel are two competing notions of education: the nonconformist individuality of Miss Jean Brodie’s set and the team spirit and school loyalty insisted upon by Miss Mackay, the headmistress of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls. The story is told in multiple time frames so that the girls of the Brodie set can reflect back from a mature perspective upon the events of their school days.
Brodie believes that she has entered her “prime” in 1930, and this perception influences her teaching, which becomes all the more idiosyncratic and personal. She ignores the standard curriculum and teaches her students about art, culture, and politics in line with her own proclivities. After the Brodie set graduates into the senior school, she has two of her favorites, Jenny Gray and Sandy Stranger, teach her Greek “at the same time as they learned it.” She has a passion for culture and knowledge.
In later life, after her forced retirement, Brodie admits to Sandy that she fell in love with Teddy Lloyd, the art master, but did not become his mistress because he was a married man. Instead, she had an affair with the music master, Gordon Lowther, a bachelor, in 1931. Miss Mackay and the moral Miss Gaunt, another schoolmistress, have their suspicions about this affair and encourage the sewing mistresses, Miss Ellen and Miss Alison Kerr, to serve as Lowther’s housekeepers, so as to spy on him. Eventually, Miss Ellen finds Brodie’s nightgown under a pillow at Lowther’s house, and Miss Gaunt sees that Miss Mackay is promptly told, though Miss Ellen cannot prove that the nightgown belonged to Brodie. As a consequence of this...
(The entire section is 682 words.)