The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

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Authority and Social Groups Theme Analysis

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Education vs. Intrusion Theme Icon
Sexuality, One’s Prime, and Spinsterhood Theme Icon
Religion, Predestination, and Narrative Structure Theme Icon
Insight, Instinct, and Transfiguration Theme Icon
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The students at the Blaine Junior school are young, naïve, and impressionable, which is perhaps why Miss Jean Brodie—as ridiculous as she is from one perspective—can exert her authority so influentially over them, and not just during their childhoods but for a lifetime. Indeed, the insightful Sandy theorizes that Jean Brodie thinks of herself as God, wholly guiltless, wholly in control of her own fate, wholly fulfilled—even though she is perhaps more truly a lonely and eccentric spinster overcompensating for the littleness of her life. Miss Brodie’s methods for establishing authority include taking her students into her confidence, as she does in sharing her romantically embellished love life with them, as well as presenting herself as urbane, cosmopolitan, and artistic, in contrast to the other, more narrow-minded adults in their lives. Consequently, Miss Brodie comes to strike her girls as glamorous, daring, and mysterious, and her charisma enthralls them. However, she also exploits more problematic methods of establishing authority, for example, scapegoating Mary Macgregor, who provides the Brodie girls with a common target for their aggression, thereby strengthening the group’s identity. The novel repeatedly suggests that these methods are not unlike those used by fascist dictators—e.g., Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco—to generate in the populaces they govern both radical, unflagging loyalty and a herd mentality.

Ironically, although Miss Brodie authoritatively preaches individualism to her girls, they as individuals have almost no identities of their own. Each is famous for something—Sandy for her small piggish eyes and insight, Rose for sex, etc.—but they are far more famous collectively, as the Brodie set. In an even further irony, the only thing holding the Brodie set together is the cult of personality Miss Brodie creates around herself, for the Brodie girls as individuals have “very little in common with each other” other than that. The Brodie set exists, it would seem, by Miss Brodie’s authority and for her pleasure alone, and at one point Sandy even imagines that the girls of the set merely add up to “‘one big Miss Brodie.’” That being said, the narrator also reveals that being perceived as a social group by others is yet another factor keeping the Brodie girls together—if other students at Blaine didn’t think of the Brodie set as a distinct social unit, that unit would fall apart. Many social groups, not just the Brodie set, need other groups to define themselves against, after all. But the novel also contrasts the Brodie set with the Girl Scout Brownies the Brodie girls encounter in the Meadows (a large public park in Edinburg), for example, as well as the sports teams at Blaine—groups organized not around a charismatic leader but common interests and goals. These, the novel suggests, are the foundation for a healthier community.

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Authority and Social Groups ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Authority and Social Groups appears in each chapter of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Authority and Social Groups Quotes in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Below you will find the important quotes in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie related to the theme of Authority and Social Groups.
Chapter 1 Quotes

‘I am putting old heads on your young shoulders,’ Miss Brodie had told them at that time, ‘and all my pupils are the crème de la crème.’

Related Characters: Miss Jean Brodie (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel opens with the "Brodie set," a group of girls joined together by their dedication to an elementary school teacher, Miss Jean Brodie. Although they have aged out of her class at this point in time, the girls are still defined by their relationship with Miss Brodie. Here we see Sandy, the most clear-sighted and analytical of the group, recalling an earlier phrase of Miss Jean Brodie's.  

These lines reveal the almost unnatural, intrusive nature of Miss Brodie's concept of education, which she defines as the process of "putting old heads on...young shoulders." This controlling method ensures that the Brodie set will be educated according to Miss Brodie's whims, as opposed to any curriculum. It also foreshadows Mr. Lloyd's disturbing portraits, in which he literally paints Miss Brodie's head on her pupil's shoulders. 

The second half of her quote, in which she calls her pupils "the crème de la crème," illuminates Miss Brodie's efforts to choose a select group of students and transform them into exceptional young women through the strength of her influence. This desire to shape the Brodie set's fate is a rebellion against Calvinistic belief. Instead of God determining one's fate, as he does before birth in the Calvinist tradition, it is Miss Jean Brodie herself who has the power to choose souls to elevate to the status of "crème de la crème." This, then, is a secular election and salvation, which Miss Brodie controls. 


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‘It has been suggested again that I should apply for a post at one of the progressive schools, where my methods would be more suited to the system than they are at Blaine. But I shall not apply for a post at a crank school. I shall remain at this education factory. There must be a leaven in the lump. Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life.’

Related Characters: Miss Jean Brodie (speaker)
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Although none of them are in her class any longer, Miss Brodie still demands her pupils spend time with her. Here, she has taken the six girls on a walk to discuss the details of a "plot" meant to force her to resign.  

Although it has been suggested that she work at a "progressive school," Miss Brodie is disdainful of the idea of working at a "crank" school. We sense that Miss Brodie does not want to teach at a progressive school because she might blend in with the other eccentrics, whereas she is seen as radical and exceptional at Blaine, or, as she says, "a leaven in the lump." Miss Brodie wants to maintain her authority over her Brodie set, and she also wants to continue to be associated with an exclusive social group, to be in the middle of a dramatic situation.

She speaks to these dovetailing interests in her last two lines here, grandly announcing that the Brodie set will be hers for life. She aims to transfigure these girls into remarkable women. This strident control of her pupils is intrusive and inappropriate, however, despite her claims to the contrary. And for now, the girls simply smile in response, entirely under Miss Brodie's thrall. 

‘But safety does not come first. Goodness, Truth and Beauty come first. Follow me.’

Related Characters: Miss Jean Brodie (speaker)
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, the narrative shifts six years into the past, and we see the Brodie set's first impression of Miss Jean Brodie. She has led her class of ten-year-olds out into the garden, where they pass a sign that reads "Safety First." Tellingly, Miss Brodie rejects the sign's message, preferring"Goodness, Truth and Beauty" over safety. These values are certainly more transfiguring and loftier than that of safety. 

In this moment, Miss Brodie frames herself as being at odds with the rest of the teaching staff at Blaine, and her pupils are struck by the idea that adults can differ from one another. Those girls who will be picked for the Brodie set, we conclude, will follow along a path that diverges from those around them. 

Miss Brodie's disregard for her pupil's safety is, on a basic level, both nobly admirable and irresponsible. By privileging loftier ideals over safety, Miss Brodie ends by playing a part, however passive, in the death of Joyce Emily years later.  

Chapter 2 Quotes

‘Miss Brodie says prime is best,’ Sandy said.
‘Yes, but she never got married like our mothers and fathers.’
‘They don’t have primes,’ said Sandy.
‘They have sexual intercourse,’ Jenny said.

Related Characters: Sandy Stranger (speaker), Jenny Gray (speaker), Miss Jean Brodie
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Miss Brodie often tells her pupils that she is in her "prime," by which she means that she is at the peak of her allure, charisma, and influence. A woman's prime, we infer, is the most important and powerful time in her life, personally, professionally, and sexually. Miss Brodie tells her students to anticipate and recognize their primes. Here, Sandy and Jenny, two of the Brodie set, discuss their parents in the context of primes and sexual experience. 

This exchange reveals that Sandy and Jenny have intuited that Miss Brodie's prime is somehow related to sexuality. In trying to define the relation between sex and a prime, they agree that their parents do not have primes. However, they do "have sexual intercourse," which in itself strikes the girls as "a stupendous thought." They are both struck by the fact that Miss Brodie is in her prime, but is not married. She is a spinster at the peak of her sexual charisma, which seems contradictory to Sandy and Jenny. Indeed, Miss Brodie's affairs with married and unmarried men alike will be the among the dramatic centers of the text. 

This discussion of sex is complicated when Sandy speculates on Mr. Lloyd's newborn baby, saying that the infant is proof that Mr. Lloyd "committed sex with his wife." By saying "committed," Sandy further reveals her ambivalence towards sex by framing it with criminal language.

Sandy looked back at her companions and understood them as a body with Miss Brodie for the head. She perceived herself, the absent Jenny, the ever-blamed Mary, Rose, Eunice, and Monica, all in a frightening little moment, in unified compliance to the destiny of Miss Brodie, as if God had willed them to birth for that purpose.

Related Characters: Miss Jean Brodie, Sandy Stranger
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Miss Brodie and her set are out walking. Sandy has an impulse to be kind to Mary MacGregor, who is the slow-witted scapegoat of the group. However, her kind impulse is checked by Miss Brodie's voice. Here, she sees herself and her companions as being a unified body with Miss Brodie "for the head." This moment is linked to the theme of Calvinism and predestination. 

Sandy sees clearly how Miss Brodie is a kind of God for herself and the other girls - she has chosen them and is now shaping them in her own image. She controls their fate with a confidence that suggests predetermination. In fact, it seems to Sandy that God himself has willed them all into existence only so that they might serve Miss Brodie. This moment is shocking and disturbing, as we see what the final goal of Miss Brodie's cherished transfiguration is: small replicas of herself, each girl like a piece of her own body. 

Mussolini had put an end to unemployment with his fascisti and there was no litter in the streets. It occurred to Sandy, there at the end of the Middle Meadow Walk, that the Brodie set was Miss Brodie’s fascisti, not to the naked eye, marching along, but all knit together for her need and in another way, marching along.

Related Characters: Miss Jean Brodie, Sandy Stranger
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

During the same walk, Miss Brodie tells her girls that they should not join the Girl Guides, or Girl Scout Brownies. At this refusal, Sandy remembers Miss Brodie's admiration for Mussolini's troops, who had ended unemployment and cleaned the streets. Here, we see her drawing a convincing parallel between Mussolini and Miss Brodie herself. 

Sandy correctly intuits that she is a part of "Miss Brodie's fascisti," a social group "knit together" by their charismatic and powerful leader. Miss Brodie, as we saw earlier, attempts to transfigure her set into imitations of herself, but here we see that there is a militaristic component to her influence as well. Her set is a kind of social protection - girls that she has groomed to do whatever she might require of them.

Directly following this moment, Sandy thinks of defecting from Miss Brodie's ranks and joining the Girl Guides before a "group-fright siez[es]" her, but the idea seems ridiculous. The dangers of Miss Brodie's invasive methods are on display here, and will only grow more apparent when she encourages Joyce Emily to fight in the Spanish Civil War. 

And if people take their clothes off in front of each other, thought Sandy, it is so rude, they are bound to be put off their passion for a moment. And if they are put off just for a single moment, how can they be swept away in the urge? If it all happens in a flash…

Related Characters: Sandy Stranger
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, we get our first glimpse into Sandy's complicated feelings about passion and sexuality. She is daydreaming about having dinner with Alan Breck (a famous historical figure) but is disturbed at the possibility that a dinner would lead to something more. She thinks to herself that being swept away must be avoidable. People must have a moment to think about it before romantic passion takes over them.

Then, Sandy thinks that the act of taking "clothes off" would be rude enough to "put off...passion for a moment." In addition to revealing her discomfort with the idea of sex and passion, this thought is amusing and reveals how young and inexperienced Sandy is.

Finally, this passage reveals Sandy's strong anxieties surrounding passion and the loss of self-control. Sandy highly values thinking, and does not want to be intellectually incapacitated by passion. Her thoughts here also relate to her feelings for Miss Brodie: earlier on the walk Sandy thinks to herself how she loves Miss Brodie, but it also seems that she is afraid of being swept away by her, of losing her identity to her, of losing her self-control. In one sense, Sandy’s betrayal of Miss Brodie is an act of recovering herself from passion (which would also make sense as Sandy eventually becomes a nun).

Chapter 3 Quotes

Miss Brodie stood in her brown dress like a gladiator with raised arm and eyes flashing like a sword. ‘Hail Caesar!’ she cried again, turning radiantly to the window light, as if Caesar sat there.

Related Characters: Miss Jean Brodie (speaker)
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

Miss Brodie has returned from her vacation to Europe in a state of excitement after being exposed to European culture and fascist politics. Here, she recalls having seen the Coliseum in Rome where gladiators hailed Caesar, and then goes on to perform the action for her pupils to see. This is a telling moment, where Miss Brodie reveals how enamored she is with figures of great authority, and the effects they have on their subjects.

From the details that her eyes were "flashing like a sword," and that she turned "radiantly," we understand how impactful a moment this was for Miss Brodie. She is so dedicated to the memory that she nearly conjures Caesar, who seems to sit in front of the window.

She is in love with the idea of a charismatic, monolithic ruler. She envisions Caesar as an ancestor of her admirable Mussolini, who in turn is the model for her own treatment of the Brodie set, according to Sandy.

The fact that she performs this scene for her students in place of a history lesson only confirms her desire to be in a position of inappropriate authority. In addition to reliving her memory, she is showing them how best to follow a leader—how to be a Brodie set of gladiators. 

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. 

It is seven years, thought Sandy, since I betrayed this tiresome woman [Miss Brodie]. What does she mean by ‘betray’? She was looking at the hills as if to see there the first and unbetrayable Miss Brodie, indifferent to criticism as a crag.

Related Characters: Sandy Stranger
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

This is an essential moment in the novel's plot. The book makes use of prolepsis (flash-forwards in time) to show us the fate of the Brodie set in their adult years. These flash-forwards focus particularly on Sandy, who is here having lunch with an aged and nostalgic Miss Brodie. Miss Brodie has spent much of the lunch trying to discover which of her set "betrayed" her.  And now we learn that it is Sandy, presumably the girl that Miss Brodie suspects the least, who betrayed her teacher. 

Sandy thinks of Miss Brodie as "this tiresome woman," which reveals the effort Sandy has made to free herself of Miss Brodie's charismatic spell. Sandy is also confounded by Miss Brodie's suggestion that she has been "betrayed." We understand that "the first and unbetrayable Miss Brodie," that is, the Miss Brodie that led the Brodie set when Sandy was a girl, would not use such a term. It would not, as Sandy herself suggests, have even been possible to betray the woman she used to know. 

Sandy then looks out to the hills, searching for the earlier, stronger, more enchanting Miss Brodie as if she were a crag in the hillside. We understand here that although Sandy has made a great effort to break free of Miss Brodie's authority, she is still somewhat caught up in it, or at least nostalgic for it. She pretends not to feel any pull from the present day Miss Brodie, but in fact, Sandy is the member of the Brodie set who remains most faithfully obsessed with Miss Brodie in her adult life. 

Chapter 4 Quotes

The teachers here [in the Senior school] seemed to have no thoughts of anyone’s personalities apart from their specialty in life, whether it was mathematics, Latin or science. They treated the new first-formers as if they were not real, but only to dealt with, like symbols of algebra, and Miss Brodie’s pupils found this refreshing at first.

Related Characters: Miss Jean Brodie
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

The Brodie set has graduated from the Junior school where they were Miss Brodie's pupils, and are now students in the Senior school. This is the period of time when the novel opens. In their beginning weeks with new instructors, the girls are struck by the difference in education they receive. Here, they are treated as students, not as personalities. Instead of intriguing them with sexually charged personal anecdotes like Miss Brodie did, the instructors (especially Miss Lockhart) depend upon the subject matter to excite their pupils.  

The Brodie set initially finds this change "refreshing," but we understand from the quotation that this enthusiasm for Senior school is short-lived. 

This quote illustrates not only the differences between Miss Brodie and her fellow instructors, but also the stress of having to switch social groups. The Brodie set at first appreciates the anonymity of Senior school - they are not pressured to be personally intriguing, and neither are they expected to obsess over a charismatic teacher. But the novelty of this soon wears off, and the girls become wistful for the strong authority of Miss Brodie, and the familiar roles they played under her control.

‘Phrases like “the team spirit” are always employed to cut across individualism, love and personal loyalties.’

Related Characters: Miss Jean Brodie (speaker)
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

Senior school is in many ways designed to pull the Brodie set apart. Miss Brodie is no longer a constant in their lives, the girls are studying different subjects, and, intriguingly, Miss Mackay has conspired to put the girls in different "houses." These houses often compete against one another in teams. Miss Mackay separates the girls in hopes that their newfound team spirit will dissolve their bonds with Miss Brodie, as well as with one another.

However, when they were in Junior school, Miss Brodie always told her girls that "'the team spirit'...cuts across individualism, love, and personal loyalties." This lesson is first and foremost in the set's mind, and so all of them save Eunice Gardner (a natural athlete) avoid competitve games.

It is deeply ironic that Miss Brodie maintains her authority over her set by making claims about individuality. Instead of allowing them to splinter off, like Eunice, and become different people, she manipulates them into staying linked to one another, and to her. 

Her [Miss Brodie’s] disapproval of the Church of Rome was based on her assertions that it was a church of superstition, and that only people who did not want to think for themselves were Roman Catholics. In some ways, her attitude was a strange one, because she was by temperament suited only to the Roman Catholic Church; possibly it could have embraced, even while it disciplined, her soaring and diving spirit, it might even have normalized her. But perhaps this was the reason that she shunned it…

Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

Here we see Miss Brodie's complicated and ambivalent thoughts on religion come into focus. She has been going to church every Sunday, but always to different churches. We learn here that the only church she will not attend is the Roman Catholic Church. The reasons that she disdains Roman Catholicism are varied. 

Miss Brodie claims that she dislikes it because it is a "church of superstition," and prevents original thought. Perhaps Miss Brodie is wary of superstition because of her own Calivinist upbringing. Her aversion to Roman Catholicism, however, is ironic because the Roman Catholic church - with all of its dramatic imagery and ritual - is perhaps the only church that could "have embraced" and "dicisplined her soaring and adventurous spirit." 

Perhaps Miss Brodie is also opposed to Roman Catholicism because it is a religion largely based on guilt, which she absolutely refuses to feel, even as she continues having an affair with Mr. Lowther. Specific denominations aside, we understand that Miss Brodie lacks strong religious convictions because she worships what might be called the god within herself.  

It was twenty-five years before Sandy had so far recovered from a creeping vision of disorder that she could look back and recognize that Miss Brodie’s defective sense of self-criticism had not been without its beneficent and enlarging effects; by which time Sandy had already betrayed Miss Brodie and Miss Brodie was laid in her grave.

Related Characters: Miss Jean Brodie, Sandy Stranger
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

Related to the fact that Miss Brodie could not respect the guilt-based religion of the Roman Catholic Church, she lives her life with a "defective sense of self-criticism." This means that Miss Brodie does not feel guilt - she does not reproach herself for making immoral choices. Here, we see Sandy considering this trait of Miss Brodie's, and coming to appreciate it in a way that she had not been able to do as a girl. 

Sandy, we remember, spent her adolescence obsessed with Miss Brodie, but also disturbed by her willingness to bend the truth of her life and manipulate her students. Miss Brodie's inability to feel guilt, when combined with these other failings, gave rise to Sandy's "creeping vision of disorder." Miss Brodie was a chaotic force, and Sandy, who as a girl was drawn to control and cool, analytic thought, found this chaos unsettling. 

However, "twenty-five years" later, after the damage has been done on both sides (Sandy betrayed Miss Brodie, and Miss Brodie stunted the development of many of her pupils), Sandy realizes that Miss Brodie's refusal to self-criticize had "benefic[ial] and enlarging effects." This is a bittersweet moment. It highlights Sandy's constant consideration of Miss Brodie, as well as the deeply complicated legacy - both positive and negative - that Miss Brodie left behind. 

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. 

She [Sandy] began to sense what went to the makings of Miss Brodie who had elected herself to grace in a particular way and with more exotic suicidal enchantment than if she had simply taken to drink like other spinsters who couldn’t stand it any more.

It was plain that Miss Brodie wanted Rose with her instinct to start preparing to be Teddy Lloyd’s lover, and Sandy with her insight to act as informant on the affair. It was to this end that Rose and Sandy had been chose as the crème de la crème.

Related Characters: Miss Jean Brodie, Sandy Stranger, Mr. Teddy Lloyd
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Sandy has a revelation about Miss Brodie's self-elevation as well as Miss Brodie's grand plan for Sandy and Rose. Miss Brodie is a glamorous woman, committed to the idea of a life transfigured and elevated by passion and extraordinary actions. To this end, Miss Brodie has "elected herself to grace" so that she might best control and determine her own fate as well as the fates of her set. She wants to plot the lives of her students like a novelist, or a predestining God.

However, Sandy sees that this control and manipulation is merely an "exotic" version of common actions taken by "other spinsters." While those less imaginative women might "take to drink" to numb the bleakness of their daily lives, Miss Brodie instead finds escape and fantasy in her plans for herself and her girls. The method is different, but the root causes are the same. 

We also see the first explicit sketch of Miss Brodie's plan for her two most promising girls - the insightful Sandy and the instinctive Rose. Miss Brodie wants Rose to begin an affair with Mr. Lloyd - to act as Miss Brodie's erotic proxy. Sandy's job will be to inform Miss Brodie about the affair in satisfying detail. Although she pretends to have elevated ambitions for the "creme de la creme" of her girls, Miss Brodie's actual plan is a sordid, disturbing anticlimax. 

Chapter 6 Quotes

By the time their [the Brodie girls’] friendship with Miss Brodie was of seven years’ standing, it had worked itself into their bones, so that they could not break away without, as it were, splitting their bones to do so.

Related Characters: Miss Jean Brodie
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:

Although she has long since stopped being their teacher, Miss Brodie still maintains an impressive influence over her girls. Here, these lines reveal just how impossible and painful it would be for the members of the Brodie set to reject their association with Miss Brodie. 

We see that doing so would be so difficult primarily because being a member of the Brodie set is the main way in which these girls identify themselves. Miss Brodie has shaped their choices for so long that they are more like her than they are themselves. As such, it would be like "splitting their bones" to break free from her. 

Additionally, they would lose their friendships within the group. Miss Brodie's influence is such that none of the Brodie set have been able to assimilate with their other classmates, or make new friends. So it would not just be with Miss Brodie that they would split, but with one another as well. Seen in this light, we can understand the Brodie set as a unified body - if one of the girls were to "break away," it would be as absurd and violent as a person's arm deciding to abandon the rest of the body. 

She [Miss Brodie] thinks she is Providence, thought Sandy, she thinks she is the God of Calvin, she sees the beginning and the end. And Sandy thought, too, the woman is an unconscious lesbian. And many theories from the books of psychology categorized Miss Brodie, but failed to obliterate her image from the canvases of one-armed Teddy Lloyd.

Related Characters: Miss Jean Brodie, Sandy Stranger, Mr. Teddy Lloyd
Related Symbols: Mr. Teddy Lloyd’s Portraits
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Lloyd has become a secondary figure of obsession for Sandy, mainly because he is so clearly infatuated with Miss Brodie, a feeling with which Sandy can't help but empathize. The portraits that Mr. Lloyd paints of the Brodie set have one thing in common: they all look like more like Miss Brodie than their true subjects. Sandy reports this to Miss Brodie, who is predictably pleased with the information. She called herself Mr. Lloyd's Muse, and goes on to speculate on when Rose will take her place as the artist's muse, a veiled reference to the affair that Miss Brodie is attempting to orchestrate. 

Here, we see Sandy grapple openly with a way of understanding Miss Brodie and pinning her down. Sandy is known for her "insight" - her ability to analyze clearly and deeply - and here, we can read her attempts to define Miss Brodie as a way of wrestling control away from her teacher. If she can classify Miss Brodie, then Miss Brodie will lose some of her magnetic power. 

First, Sandy thinks that Miss Brodie has put herself in the position of God. She controls her pupil's fate like the Calvinist God of predetermination, or like an author manipulating characters into pleasing and dramatic narratives. Sandy's next idea - that Miss Brodie is an "unconscious lesbian" - may well be a psychological projection. Sandy herself seems to have homoerotic feelings for Miss Brodie. Her thoughts then become more vague, as she cycles through "many theories" in an attempt to define Miss Brodie. Sandy is ultimately unsuccessful, however, as none of her analytical thinking can erase Miss Brodie from Mr. Lloyd's canvases, and by extension, from his mind as well as Sandy's. 

‘It’s only possible to betray where loyalty is due.’

Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:

Sandy says this towards the very end of the novel, long after she betrayed Miss Brodie by reporting on her radical politics, inappropriate teaching methods, and personal indiscretions to the headmistress. Sandy's betrayal led to Miss Brodie's being fired, and the question of who betrayed her obsesses Miss Brodie until she dies. Now, after the death of their teacher, members of the Brodie set come and visit Sandy to discuss the late Miss Brodie. Here, Sandy is speaking with Monica, who tells her that Miss Brodie began to suspect Sandy in her last years. 

Sandy, instead of either confessing to or refuting the charge that she betrayed Miss Brodie, questions whether a betrayal was even possible since a person can only "betray where loyalty is due." In this moment, Sandy reveals the depths of her disillusionment and disappointment in Miss Brodie.

This line recalls Sandy's earlier claim that it was not Miss Brodie who was betrayed at all, but it was Miss Miss Brodie who betrayed the Brodie set. Sandy's lifelong obsession with Miss Brodie has so many facets that it's impossible to pin down a single reason that she makes this claim. However, Sandy might be thinking of the sordid plan that Miss Brodie made for her and Rose, Miss Brodie's hand in the death of Joyce Emily, or Miss Brodie's refusal to feel guilt. As Sandy sees it, Miss Brodie did not earn the girls' loyalty, and so getting her fired wasn't a real "betrayal" at all.

‘What were the main influences of your schooldays, Sister Helena? Were they literary or political or personal? Was it Calvinism?’

Sandy said: ‘There was a Miss Jean Brodie in her prime.’

Related Characters: Sandy Stranger (speaker), Miss Jean Brodie
Related Symbols: “The Transfiguration of the Commonplace”
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:

As an adult, Sandy is a Roman Catholic nun, well-known for her book, "The Transfiguration of the Commonplace." In the second chapter of the novel, a young man who admires her work comes and speaks with her. The novel ends on their interaction, as he asks her about her early influences.

Although the young man offers up several possibilities, Sandy responds with a single influence: "a Miss Jean Brodie in her prime." It is a tremendous irony that Sandy - who cut so violently against Miss Brodie's plans for her, and who went so far as to betray Miss Brodie - names her old teacher as her single, formative influence. The very fact that Sandy rejected the influence so aggressively is the purest proof that Miss Brodie's influence endures.