The dominant character is Miss Jean Brodie, who represents a type: a “war-bereaved” and “progressive” spinster of Edinburgh, deprived of her first love, who was killed in World War I, driven by frustrated sexual energy and devoted to “new ideas and energetic practices in art of social welfare, education or religion.” She is a proto-Fascist. She admires first Benito Mussolini then Hitler. She is out of place in the “traditional” girls’ school where she teaches, constantly at odds with Miss Mackay, whose “reasoning power,” she believes, “is deficient.” She is a committed feminist, independent and decidedly eccentric.
In a real sense, she is a great teacher, thanks to her personal charisma. As Harold W. Schneider has written, Brodie is “intelligent, energetic, individualistic, personally attractive; a woman of taste and a challenge to the stuffiness and narrow-mindedness of the people around her,” such as Miss Mackay and her accomplice, Miss Gaunt, who actively promote Brodie’s downfall.
On the other hand, Brodie is obviously flawed in her judgment and quite doctrinaire. Her artistic and political beliefs spring from emotional instinct. “By the time we arrive at Miss Mackay’s study” toward the end, when Sandy has decided to destroy the woman’s career, Bernard Harrison notes, “we are mostly on Sandy’s side, and the novel has turned . . . from a light social satire to a vision of metaphysical evil,” an...
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