Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
- Full Title: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
- When Published: 1961
- Literary Period: Post-War British Fiction
- Genre: Bildungsroman, comedy of manners
- Setting: In and around Edinburg, Scotland
- Climax: Sandy betrays to the headmistress of Blaine, Miss Mackay, that Miss Brodie is interested in radical fascist politics and that she even urged a girl to fight in the Spanish Civil War; this betrayal results in Miss Brodie’s forced retirement.
- Point of View: Third person omniscient
Sitting for a Portrait. Spark modeled the character of Miss Brodie in part on Christina Kay, a teacher of hers for two years at the James Gillespie’s School for Girls. “What filled our minds with wonder and made Christina Kay so memorable,” Spark later recalled, “was the personal drama and poetry within which everything in her classroom happened.” Like Miss Brodie, Miss Kay displayed both prints of Renaissance paintings and posters of Mussolini’s marching Blackshirts.
Miss Brodie’s Ancestor. In Chapter 4 of the novel, Miss Brodie claims to be descended from a man named Willie Brodie, a respected town official by day and a criminal by night. However, Willie is not a character of Spark’s invention: Deacon William Brodie is a historical figure, who in life was indeed a cabinetmaker in Edinburgh, a member of the Town Council, and a burglar hanged for his crimes on a gallows some hold to have been of his own making. Nor is Spark the first novelist to incorporate Deacon Brodie into her work: Robert Louis Stevenson, whose father owned furniture fashioned by Brodie, based The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) on the cabinetmaker-burglar’s double life.