Play In “The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie”? Essay, Research Paper
What role does personal history and reminiscence play in ?The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie??
An interesting narrative device of ?The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie? is the manipulation of the time line. The first 5 pages are set in 1936, after which, we are brought back 6 years into the past into 1930. The time periods shift frequently, so much so, that we are told of certain important events very early on in the novel. For example, we are told of Mary?s death in a hotel fire on page 14, the betrayal of Miss Brodie on page 27, the identity of the betrayer (i.e. Sandy) on page 60 and Miss Brodie?s death on page 26. The fact that these rather tragic events are made known to us right in the beginning, creates a rather foreboding sense of doom as the reader is invited to interpret all the events as a prelude to the final failure and betrayal of Miss Brodie. Personal history and reminiscence therefore, play a major role in the movement of the plot of the novel as events are narrated simultaneously along with the characters? reflections and future thoughts.
Miss Brodie, the central character in the novel, often narrates her personal history to her class. One of the first stories that she tells the young impressionable girls is that of her lover, ?Hugh the warrior? who died during The First World War, ?just before Armistice?. This story is often referred to in the course of the novel and is integral in the early formation of the girls? ideas on love and sex, especially in the cases of Sandy Stranger and her best friend Jenny Grey. The girls often contemplate their relationship, fantasizing and creating their own picture of the love affair that took place between their teacher and the greatly idealized Hugh. This can be seen in the two girls? short story, ?The Mountain Eyerie? on page 18. Miss Brodie?s narration about Hugh on page 12 is full of romanticized images, likening Hugh?s death to the fall of ?an autumn leaf?. Hugh was ?a scholar? despite being poor and wanted to lead a simple life where they would ?drink water and walk slow?.
These romantic images were very much impressed upon Sandy and Jenny. Likewise, ?The Mountain Eyerie? follows through with this line of romantic imagery. The language is very passionate. The characters ?beseech? and ?swear? their lines instead of just saying or stating them. There is also liberal use of the exclamation mark. ?Stand back from the door I say!? and ?Back girl! he cried? are some of the statements used in the girls? narration to show strong emotion and raw passion. Later on in the novel, when Sandy and Jenny are composing the secret correspondence between Miss Brodie and Gordon Lowther, (page 73), they set the scene of their lovemaking to be ?the lofty Lion?s back of Arthur?s seat with only the sky for roof and bracken for bed?.
Miss Brodie tries to impress upon the girls the need for ?instinct?, which is why passion is greatly emphasized upon. Hugh is a central figure in Miss Brodie?s life. She sets her relationship with him as the standard for all other relationships. We see Hugh being redefined after her holiday with Lowther. She incorporates the latter?s singing abilities and Lloyd?s artistic talent into her image of him. Miss Brodie uses the word ?instinct? loosely to define her romantic notions, demanding it from her life, as she does from her girls.
However, the girls do not follow Miss Brodie?s footsteps in the cultivation of greatly passionate and tragic relationships. Jenny has a happy marriage but it does not seem to incite in her the passion the Miss Brodie would have hoped for, finding it instead in her sudden falling in love with the man in Rome in which case ?there was nothing to be done about it?. Miss Brodie had had high hopes for Jenny and probably would have wanted her to go with her instinct but Jenny adhered to a stricter moral code than Miss Brodie, ?sinner that she was? who had no qualms about plotting Teddy Lloyd?s proposed extra-marital affair with Rose.
Sandy, Jenny?s best friend seems to be the girl who is most opposed to Miss Brodie. In her secret fantasies with the policewoman, Sandy seems greatly disapproving of Miss Brodie?s love affair with Gorden Lowther, wanting instead to produce the ?incriminating documents? that would implicate Miss Brodie. She felt the ?pressing need to prove Miss Brodie guilty of misconduct?. This is extremely in opposition to Miss Brodie?s declaration that Sandy was a girl who possessed both insight and instinct. Sandy seems the least capable of a romantic relationship. The love affair that she had had with Teddy Lloyd was purely sexual and devoid of any warmth or romance. It seemed instead to be fueled by a sort of frustration of the part of Lloyd who was repulsed by Sandy?s insolent ?blackmailing? glare. Sandy greatly fell in Miss Brodie?s esteem when she became a nun. ?That is not the sort of dedication I had in mind?. Miss Brodie had probably guessed correctly when she wondered whether Sandy had chosen the said career path only to annoy her.
Rose Stanley, despite disappointing Miss Brodie by not having the affair with Teddy Lloyd, married a businessman and had a happy marriage. She did not turn out, as Miss Brodie had predicted, to be famous for sex in her adult life. Miss Brodie would have most certainly disapproved of Rose, who turned out, quite like her father who had been dismissed as being rather uncultured and ?carnal?. Miss Brodie had had high hopes of Rose Stanley but she had shaken of her influence ?like a dog shakes off pond water?.
Reminiscence in the novel serves to show Miss Brodie in a different light from when she was the prime influence in the girls? life. While Miss Brodie is presented as being quite the tyrant during the girls? formative years, their afterthoughts and conclusions on her reveal that she was not the great influence that she had thought she would be. Miss Brodie had declared that if she were given a girl at an impressionable age, she would be hers for life. The set however, in their evaluation of their time spent at Marcia Blaine under her, seem to prove differently. All except Sandy, who ironically was the most opposed to Miss Brodie?s influences, lead their own independent lives, hardly showing traces of their years with Miss Brodie.
The first reminiscence that we are presented with is that of Eunice Gardiner. In talking to her husband, Eunice referred to Miss Brodie as ?just a spinster?, despite the fact that the latter had endeavored tirelessly to romanticize her love life. Eunice simply recognised the fact that, despite Miss Brodie?s numerous love affairs, she had formed no concrete lasting relationships. Eunice?s tone is rather condescending and sympathetic, portraying Miss Brodie as a rather sad character, having to affirm to her husband that she ?was not mad?. There doesn?t seem to be any traces of Miss Brodie?s influence left on Eunice. She married a doctor, a profession of science, a subject that ranked extremely low in Miss Brodie?s considerations. Eunice described her role in the Brodie set purely objectively ? ?I did the splits and made her laugh?, which is in stark comparison to Miss Brodie?s highly romanticized declaration that she was an ?Ariel?. Eunice echoes her husband?s summing up of Miss Brodie as being ?marvelous fun? which is a rather trivial description for a woman who sought so hard to influence the lives of the 5 girls in her set.
Sandy is the only girl who seems to be unable to shake off the influence Miss Brodie had tried to exert on the set. Her becoming a nun was in direct defiance of Miss Brodie, and yet, through her rebellion, she seems to have trapped herself. She is a rather unhappy nun, pictured always to be gripping the bars and leaning forward, as if trying to lurch for freedom or liberation. Sandy was the only one who made it a point to ?put a stop? to Miss Brodie. She openly declared Miss Brodie to be a ?ridiculous? and ?tiresome woman?. In her later contemplations however, Sandy seems to make peace with her memory of Miss Brodie. In her conversations with the other four girls of the set, she admits that Miss Brodie was dedicated to her girls. She recognises that Miss Brodie?s love of Teddy Lloyd was reciprocated ? ?and he was in love with her too?, which, in a way, validates her love life as it is acknowledged that the man whom she loved felt the same way for her.
Miss Brodie?s reminiscence regarding her set dwelled mainly on the question of who it was whom finally betrayed her. She suspected all her girls, singling out each of their possible reasons for doing so. In doing this, she summarises her conclusions on the girls. The most apparent feature of these summaries is her strong sense that none of her girls have achieved greatness. None of them, according to Miss Brodie, turned out to be the cr?me de la cr?me she had hoped for. She put down each and every girl – Eunice had too much team spirit and might have resented her for not letting her be a Girl Guide, Jenny became ?dull? and ?could never become a Fay Compton, far less a Sybil Thorndike?, Monica Douglas had ?very little soul behind the mathematical brain?. In contemplating each girl?s possible reason for betraying her, she mistakenly over-rated her influence in their lives. These girls lead rather happy, and more importantly, individual lives, indifferent to the influence to Jean Brodie.
The only personal history revealed to us in the novel is that of Miss Brodie. She had set ideas on what life was supposed to be and was keen to impart these aphorisms to her students. The girls reminiscence show however that Miss Brodie wasn?t the fascist tyrant that she was made out to be when they were still in school. Her effect on them, though memorable, has no lasting effect on their lives, save that of Sandy Stranger, who was perhaps too similar to Miss Brodie in her fantasizing and transmogrifying of reality to be totally isolate and indifferent to her influences.