Analysis of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodice by Muriel Spark

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Analysis of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodice by Muriel Spark “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a novel about a teacher’s dedication to her pupils. It is also about loyalty and betrayal.” The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a novel about a teacher’s dedication to her pupils. It is also about loyalty and betrayal. The novel emphasises the effects of dedication, loyalty and betrayal within a small group of people and the way in which they are all intertwined. It forces the reader to look at particular aspects of these themes. When has dedication gone too far? To what extent is loyalty due to another? Can betrayal be justified? These themes are joined when a teacher’s dedication becomes interference in her student’s life forcing that student to retract her loyalty and put a stop to the situation, an action branded by the teacher as “betrayal”. The most obvious theme in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is that dedication to the young has a definite limit, it should stop at guidance. It becomes evil when it is extended to domination of their and direction of their lives. Miss Brodie is very protective of her class of 1931, she feels the are the ‘crème de la crème” and they attract her special dedication. Miss Brodie took them to the theatre, to galleries and museums where they were encouraged to emulate the dedication of powerful female figures such as Pavlova and Sybil Thorndike. However, her dedication is deep: “These are the years of my prime. You are benefiting by my prime…one’s prime is the moment one was born for.” (P44) Miss Brodie believed that her great dedication was in the best interests of her girls. However, it is quite apparent that the girls do not receive a ‘prime’ education. Miss Brodie felt that the knowledge the girls were meant to have for exams was unimportant: “If there are any intruders, we are doing our history lesson… our poetry… English gramma…’ The small girls held up their books with eyes not on them, but on Miss Brodie.” (P11) It is impossible to deny that Miss Brodie had great dedication towards her girls. However, her motives for her dedication and the lengths she goes to are in her own interests rather than in the interests of her girls. Miss Brodie’s dedication to her girls went too far, she went beyond the stage of merely bringing out the best in the girls and began too meddle in their lives: “It was plain... ... middle of paper ... ... her decision was regrettable but inevitable. The themes of dedication, loyalty and betrayal in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie are all quite closely connected. Miss Brodie is liked to a ‘God’ figure: “She thinks she is Providence, she thinks she is the God of Calvin, she sees the beginning and the end” (P120) Her dedication is largely focused on her set, who can be seen as her disciples, and Sandy who would therefore be Judus. The difference being that Sandy’s ‘betrayal’ is justified: “’It’s only possible to betray where loyalty is due,’ said Sandy. ‘Well, wasn’t it due to Miss Brodie?’ ‘Only up to a point,’ said Sandy” (P127) The three themes of dedication, loyalty and betrayal are all closely knit and so they complement each other in the way they are woven into the story. As Miss Brodie’s girls were being formed, Miss Brodie’s nature was also growing and the principals governing the end of her ‘prime’ started with her dedication, climaxed with a breach of loyalty and finished with a betrayal. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie demonstrates clearly that dedication should stop at guidance, that loyalty is due only up to a point and that betrayal can be justifiable.

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