The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The novel focuses on Jean Brodie, a teacher at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, who dedicates the years of her prime to six students: Sandy Stranger, Rose Stanley, Mary Macgregor, Eunice Gardiner, Jenny Gray, and Monica Douglas. She hopes to mold their lives into her own unique pattern, and her teaching includes comparative religion, Fascism, and the details of her love life.

This naturally causes friction between Miss Brodie and the more conventional faculty. The headmistress, Miss Mackay, continually searches for some grounds on which to dismiss Miss Brodie. Meanwhile, Miss Brodie’s efforts to dominate the lives of her girls increase as when she tries to arrange an affair between Rose Stanley and the singing master Teddy Lloyd.

As the Brodie set grows older, Miss Mackay begins questioning them unsuccessfully, hoping that one girl will betray her friend and teacher. Finally, Sandy Stranger comes to realize that Miss Brodie’s influence may ruin the lives of her students and must make a choice between her personal loyalty to Miss Brodie and her newly awakened moral perception.

Jean Brodie is a remarkable comic figure, by turns admirable, sinister, and ludicrous. As the story presents new sides of Miss Brodie, she is by turns a benevolent teacher, a calculating Fascist, and a silly, frustrated spinster. Each of these shifts in perception is presented from the viewpoint of Sandy Stranger, so that the reader goes through the...

(The entire section is 430 words.)