The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Miss Ellen and Alison Kerr Character Analysis

The two sewing teachers at Blaine, the Kerr sisters are meek Calvinists who begin housekeeping for Mr. Lowther, and it seems as though one might even marry him. However, Miss Brodie crushes their prospects by becoming intimate with the singing teacher herself. Later, Miss Ellen Kerr discovers what is quite likely Miss Brodie’s nightdress under one of Mr. Lowther’s pillows, which she tells Miss Mackay about—but as much as she wishes to dismiss Miss Brodie, Miss Mackay recognizes that the nightdress is insufficient proof of scandal to justify Miss Brodie’s dismissal.

Miss Ellen and Alison Kerr Quotes in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie quotes below are all either spoken by Miss Ellen and Alison Kerr or refer to Miss Ellen and Alison Kerr. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Authority and Social Groups Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harper Perennial edition of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie published in 2009.
Chapter 3 Quotes

The shuttle of the sewing machines went up and down, which usually caused Sandy and Jenny to giggle, since at that time everything that could conceivably bear a sexual interpretation immediately did so to them. But the absence of Miss Brodie and the presence of Miss Gaunt had a definite subtracting effect from the sexual significance of everything, and the trepidation of the two sewing sisters contributed to the effect of grim realism.

Related Characters: Sandy Stranger, Jenny Gray, Miss Ellen and Alison Kerr
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

To understand the significance of this quote, we must remember the earlier sewing lesson scene, when Miss Brodie was present. In that scene, Miss Brodie read aloud to her pupils from Jane Eyre as they sewed, and the girls pricked their fingers so that there would be blood on their work. This earlier scene had an erotic, charged atmosphere that is noticeably lacking in the scene introduced in this quotation. 

In this scene, Miss Brodie's absence drains the "sexual significance" from everything. The weakened erotic charge is completely snuffed out by the complimentary presence of Miss Gaunt, whose very name suggests the "grim realism" her presence evokes. 

Later in the text, we learn that Miss Brodie took the leave of absence illustrated here to carry out an affair with Mr. Lowther (as a means of distracting herself from her true passion for Mr. Lloyd). The Brodie set is uniquely attuned to their own sexuality as well as Miss Brodie's, and here we see a different version of the authority and social grouping that has occurred throughout the text.

The Brodie set is still sensitive to the erotic fluctuations caused by Miss Brodie even when she is not present. She maintains her authority over them by priming their sexual curiosity (such as reading Jane Eyre to them) and her pull is strong enough that they define their mood even by her absence. 

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 5 Quotes

In fact, it was the religion of Calvin of which Sandy felt deprived, or rather a specified recognition of it. She desired this birthright; something definite to reject. It pervaded the place in proportion as it was unacknowledged. In some ways the most real and rooted people whom Sandy knew were Miss Gaunt and the Kerr sisters who made no evasions about their belief that God had planned for practically everybody before they were born a nasty surprise when they died.

Related Characters: Sandy Stranger, Miss Ellen and Alison Kerr, Miss Gaunt
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

Calvinism is, as Sandy has intuited, an enormous influence on Miss Brodie. Instead of flatly rejecting the belief system, Miss Brodie has perverted it by "electing herself to grace" and taking on a God-like role of determining her own fate and the fate of the Brodie set. 

Here, Sandy wishes that she could believe seriously in Calvinism (which holds that God elects people to Heaven without reference to their earthly conduct) because it would be "something definite to reject." Instead, her most potent belief is in Miss Brodie herself, which leads eventually to her rejection and betrayal of her teacher and her conversion to Roman Catholicism (the one religion that Miss Brodie refused, and one in which your earthly conduct more directly influences the fate of your soul).

In this passage, Sandy also thinks about Miss Gaunt and the Kerr sisters (who take care of Mr. Lowther and are therefore rivals with Miss Brodie for his time and attention). These women are "the most real and rooted" people that she knows, and although Sandy does not necessarily respect their beliefs, she envies their sense of balance and strength. They are the calm foils to the chaos that governs Miss Brodie's life. 

Get the entire Miss Jean Brodie LitChart as a printable PDF.
The prime of miss jean brodie.pdf.medium

Miss Ellen and Alison Kerr Character Timeline in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The timeline below shows where the character Miss Ellen and Alison Kerr appears in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Authority and Social Groups Theme Icon
Sexuality, One’s Prime, and Spinsterhood Theme Icon
...two teachers who do not judge Miss Brodie at all are the two sewing teachers, Miss Ellen and Alison Kerr , who think all of their colleagues who teach academic subjects to be “above criticism.”... (full context)
Authority and Social Groups Theme Icon
Sexuality, One’s Prime, and Spinsterhood Theme Icon
...taught her class—far more rigorously and demandingly, to the girls’ shock. Even the sewing teachers Miss Ellen and Allison Kerr felt cowed by Miss Gaunt. Sandy and Jenny used to giggle watching the shuttles of... (full context)
Sexuality, One’s Prime, and Spinsterhood Theme Icon
Religion, Predestination, and Narrative Structure Theme Icon
Sandy recalls to herself that, during one sewing class, Miss Gaunt discussed her brother with Miss Ellen and Allison Kerr , who was the minister of the parish church the three women attended—a fact which... (full context)
Chapter 4
Authority and Social Groups Theme Icon
Sexuality, One’s Prime, and Spinsterhood Theme Icon
...as Mr. Lowther’s friend and confidante. The next Saturday, Miss Brodie tells the girls that Miss Ellen and Alison Kerr have temporarily taken on the role of housekeepers for Mr. Lowther, and she criticizes them... (full context)
Sexuality, One’s Prime, and Spinsterhood Theme Icon
...spring of 1933, Miss Brodie’s Greek lessons with Sandy and Jenny come to an end. The Kerr sisters have begun to enjoy caring for Mr. Lowther and have never been so perky or... (full context)
Authority and Social Groups Theme Icon
Education vs. Intrusion Theme Icon
Sexuality, One’s Prime, and Spinsterhood Theme Icon
When it becomes clear that the Kerr sisters have permanently taken up housekeeping for Mr. Lowther, Miss Brodie fancies that her lover is... (full context)
Sexuality, One’s Prime, and Spinsterhood Theme Icon
Insight, Instinct, and Transfiguration Theme Icon
Miss Brodie exults in her victory over the Kerr sisters . She attributes it, in a discussion with Sandy and Jenny, to her ancestry. She... (full context)
Authority and Social Groups Theme Icon
Sexuality, One’s Prime, and Spinsterhood Theme Icon
Religion, Predestination, and Narrative Structure Theme Icon
...discover evidence as to whether or not Miss Brodie stays the night with Mr. Lowther, Miss Ellen Kerr supposes she has: a nightdress allegedly belonging to Miss Brodie stashed under Mr. Lowther’s pillow.... (full context)
Chapter 5
Sexuality, One’s Prime, and Spinsterhood Theme Icon
Insight, Instinct, and Transfiguration Theme Icon
The narrative shifts back to around the time when Miss Ellen Kerr discovers what she believes to be Miss Brodie’s nightdress in Mr. Lowther’s house. Mr. Lowther... (full context)
Authority and Social Groups Theme Icon
Religion, Predestination, and Narrative Structure Theme Icon
...childhood, and which she feels deprived of. Sandy thinks that the Calvinists Miss Gaunt and the Kerr sisters are “the most real and rooted people” she knows, which she attributes to their belief... (full context)