Discuss Miss Jean Brodie's character as being both admirable and forbidding.

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lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Brodie is admirable in many ways. She has devoted herself, in her "prime", to her girls. She enjoys her students, wants the best for them, and tries to instill a love of learning in them. She teaches them things way beyond their dull girls' school curriculum. She is a non-conformist and very avant garde for the times. She also teaches her girls to be assertive but not aggressive. When reading this novel through the viewpoints expressed in retrospect by her students, we get the idea that Miss Brodie was another well-loved Mr. Chips.

However, there is a dark side to Miss Brodie. Is she reveling in her nonconformity for her girls, or is it really for herself? Is she a nonconformist because she truly believes things should be changed (like the school's dull curriculum) or is she a nonconformist for the sake of nonconformity? Her naive political ideas cause her not only to be continually at odds with her superiors, but in emulating her naive beliefs, she is instrumental in convincing one of her girls to go off to Spain, and on the way, the girl is killed in an accident. Plus, Miss Brodie's moral values are lacking and she is far from a good example to her girls in this regard. She even goes so far as to attempt to manipulate Rose into having an affair with the art teacher, "Teddy", whom Miss Brodie herself loves and with whom she has had an affair. She intends to live vicariously through Rose. This is manipulative and sick, and Sandy accuses her of trying to play God:

“She thinks she is Providence . . . she thinks she is the God of Calvin.”

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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

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