The Pride of Miss Jean Brodie
Question: How does Miss Brodie's view of education differ from Mr Gradgrinds. What is different about Muriel Spark's style of writing that helps to emphasise this different view -- you will need to think about the use of characterisation and speech in particular?
Miss Brodie's views on education differ so greatly from Mr Gradgrind's because she puts an emphasis on the fact that 'Goodness, truth and beauty' are more important in life than learning sheer facts.
She treats her pupils as equals, but still manages to retain control of the girls. She does not shout of physically punish wrong-doers, but uses her sharp tongue and wit to put them in their place. The girls have respect for Miss Brodie and do not often need to be chastised by her.
Mr Gradgrind, however, treats his pupils very differently. He sees them as 'empty vessels', and it is his job to fill them with facts, facts and more facts. He does not treat the children with respect, and treats them girls with even less respect by calling them by numbers rather than by their names.
Mr Gradgrind does not allow his pupils to express and form of individuality or creativity, and publicly humiliates them if they do so.
I can imagine Mr Gradgrind living by the motto 'I have only two rules. One, I am always right. Number two, if I am wrong, rule number one applies'. Whereas Miss Brodie accepts that she is merely 'human' and that she makes mistakes. She is willing to accept differences to her opinions to a certain extent, but she still enforces certain opinions upon the girls. At one point, she asks the girls who they thought the best painter in the world was. One girl says
Michaelangelo and Miss Brodie immediately says that she is wrong. She replies 'the answer is Giotto'. In this way Miss Brodie is similar to Mr Gradgrind because she is enforcing her opinions on the girls rather then accepting their different opinions.
Brodie shows throughout the entire extract that she is a 'free sprit', who refuses to comply with the school's curriculum and teaching methods. For example, she takes the girls outside for a 'lesson' on a sunny day. This is clearly not the normal thing to do. She even tells the girls to pretend that they are studying English should the head mistress come along. They do not study English, but she regales her group by telling the story of her love who died in the war.