The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Fifteen years old at this time, Sandy stands with Mr. Lloyd in his studio admiring the portrait he has done of Rose Stanley in her gym tunic. Strangely, Rose’s face in the portrait resembles that of Miss Brodie. Mrs. Deirdre Lloyd, also present and dressed fashionably like a peasant, tells her husband to show Sandy “Red Velvet,” a portrait of Sandy wrapped in a “swathing of crimson velvet,” which makes her look one-armed like Mr. Lloyd and more physically developed than in life. Sandy is surprised to learn that Mr. Lloyd has also painted Monica Douglas and Eunice Gardiner—both images resemble Miss Brodie, which is not true of any of Mr. Lloyd’s portraits of people not in the Brodie set.
The novel gestures toward the idea that Mr. Lloyd may indeed be erotically interested in Rose, as Miss Brodie hopes; but later we learn there is no attraction there at all. The portraits reveal how in our imaginations we transfigure people into others depending on how powerful a presence they have in our imaginations: Mr. Lloyd sees himself in Rose, and he sees in all the Brodie girls Miss Brodie herself. This speaks to how like Miss Brodie the Brodie girls have become, how subject to her authority they are.
Themes
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Sexuality, One’s Prime, and Spinsterhood Theme Icon
Insight, Instinct, and Transfiguration Theme Icon
At this point, it seems to Sandy that the Brodie set might split up—which she thinks “perhaps a good thing.” While they are together in his studio, however, Mr. Lloyd confides in Sandy that he desires to paint all the Brodie girls, individually and then all together. Sandy thinks this an attempt to keep the girls a set despite their emerging individuality; she retorts, “‘We’d look like one big Miss Brodie,’” and gazes at Mr. Lloyd insolently. He laughs, kisses her “long and wetly,” and as she tries to run out of the studio he tells her, “‘You’re just about the ugliest little thing I’ve ever seen in my life.’”
Sandy is struggling to recover her individual identity from the group identity of the Brodie set. She insightfully reveals to Mr. Lloyd that she discerns his obsession with Miss Brodie, and this seems to sexually excite him, hence the kiss. Why this might be so remains unclear—perhaps because he recognizes in Sandy’s insight and defiance of group identity a piece of Miss Brodie herself.
Themes
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Sexuality, One’s Prime, and Spinsterhood Theme Icon
Insight, Instinct, and Transfiguration Theme Icon
Sandy then follows Mr. Lloyd downstairs, where she spends most of tea trying to understand her feelings about him kissing and insulting her. She is distracted, however, by the Lloyd children’s loudness, and by the Lloyds themselves, who both request that Sandy call them by their first names. Mrs. Lloyd asks Sandy to bring Miss Brodie to tea, but Teddy is resistant to the idea. Mr. Lloyd then asks Sandy about Miss Brodie’s relationship with Mr. Lowther: what does she see in him? Sandy replies sharply, “‘He sings to her.’” Mrs. Lloyd laughs and said that Miss Brodie sounds “‘a bit queer.’” Mr. Lloyd defends her and leaves the room, after which Sandy excuses herself too.
Although we are told again and again that Sandy is psychologically insightful, she struggles to understand her own feelings, suggesting just how difficult it is to psychologize at all. Indeed, the novel tends to avoid psychological analysis of its characters, and instead gives only facts of speech and action which we are left to draw our own conclusions about. Mr. Lloyd questions Sandy about Miss Brodie just as she asks about him: their residual passion is mutual, it seems.
Themes
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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 over the past two years has considered marrying either one of the Kerr sisters, because Miss Brodie continually refuses to marry him. She would only make love with, and cook for, him. Mr. Lowther broods on the possibility that she prefers Mr. Lloyd’s long legs to his short ones.
Like her ancestor Willie Brodie, Miss Brodie is less interested in the material gain to be had, from marriage in her case, than she is in the transfiguring thrill of transgressing social rules. Mr. Lowther’s understandable dissatisfaction with the affair lightly foreshadows his engagement to Miss Lockhart.
Themes
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Insight, Instinct, and Transfiguration Theme Icon
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Miss Brodie confides most of this in her girls as they grow from thirteen to fourteen, fourteen to fifteen, without ever stating or suggesting that she is sleeping with Mr. Lowther, for she is still determining which of the girls she can trust, and wants to alarm no parental suspicions. However, she finds in Sandy a girl in whom she can confide entirely.
It is never made explicit why Miss Brodie feels she can trust Sandy absolutely—perhaps because of all the Brodie girls Sandy is most influenced by, and most resembles in insightfulness, Miss Brodie herself.
Themes
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Insight, Instinct, and Transfiguration Theme Icon
In fact, in the autumn of 1935, while the two golf together, Miss Brodie tells Sandy that all of her ambitions are fixed on her and Rose. She asks Sandy if it seems that Jenny is becoming a bit insipid, and Sandy agrees. Miss Brodie goes on to criticize all the Brodie girls, Sandy and Rose excluded. Meanwhile, Sandy recalls to herself having seen Miss Lockhart golfing one Saturday with Mr. Lowther. The scene closes with Miss Brodie praising Sandy for her insight and Rose for her instinct; she also claims that she herself possesses both of these qualities.
Characteristically, Miss Brodie’s tactic for making Sandy feel specially chosen is to criticize others. Insight for Miss Brodie refers to intellectual ability, analytical penetration, whereas instinct refers to physical appeal, grace, and erotic power. Miss Brodie here casts Rose and Sandy as her spiritual daughters, but she is mistaken: Rose casts off her influence and Sandy betrays her.
Themes
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Sexuality, One’s Prime, and Spinsterhood Theme Icon
Religion, Predestination, and Narrative Structure Theme Icon
Insight, Instinct, and Transfiguration Theme Icon
Also around this time, Sandy would stand outside St. Giles’s Cathedral or the Tolbooth (an old municipal building in Edinburgh), and think about Calvinism, which had been spoken of only as a joke during her 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 in the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, which holds that God elects people to be sent to Heaven without reference to their conduct on earth. Sandy also senses Calvinism to be a formative influence on Miss Brodie herself: instead of being or not being elected by God to salvation, Miss Brodie “had elected herself to grace.”
Miss Brodie defies Calvinism but also absorbs it, as Sandy perceives: she just usurps God’s role in the Calvinist scheme by electing herself to grace, to a godlike role. Sandy wishes that she, too, could take Calvinism seriously, so that she could in turn have something to react against. Instead, she reacts against Miss Brodie, resulting later in her conversion to Roman Catholicism, a religion in which one’s earthly conduct matters in whether one attains heaven.
Themes
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Sandy also develops what she thinks of as Miss Brodie’s plan, unfolding over many years: Rose with her instinct is to have a love affair with Mr. Lloyd, as a great lover above the common moral code, and Sandy with her insight is to act as the informant on the affair. However, the narrator flashes forward and reveals that Mr. Lloyd has no more than a professional interest in Rose, and that it is Sandy who eventually has the affair with him, with Rose as the informant.
Miss Brodie attempts to plot the lives of her students much as a novelist or predestining god would. But her plots go awry, highlighting her weaknesses and limitations: she casts Sandy and Rose in the opposite roles from those they ultimately play. She desires the affair between Rose and Mr. Lloyd because to her it would signify the fulfillmentof her own passion for him.
Themes
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Religion, Predestination, and Narrative Structure Theme Icon
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It was some time, however, before these things would come to pass. In the interim, Miss Brodie discusses art with Sandy and Rose and tells Rose that she has to realize the power within and fulfill herself, which she predicts will happen in Rose’s seventeenth or eighteenth year. Rose is also becoming famous for sex, not because she talks about or indulges in sex, but because she is popular with the boys. Teddy Lloyd completes a portrait of all the girls, whom “in a magical transfiguration,” all resemble Miss Brodie on Mr. Lloyd’s canvas. He paints Rose often because she is instinctively a good model and because she requires the money he gives her to fund her addiction to the cinema.
Miss Brodie seems to be planting the seeds for an affair between Rose and Mr. Lloyd by drawing Rose’s attention to art and even setting a deadline, so to speak, for the affair to occur, in Rose’s late teens. Ironically, Miss Brodie totally misunderstands Rose, who has no interest in sex, really, much less in Mr. Lloyd. This irony suggests the extent to which the way people are perceived diverges radically from who they really are. Also: Miss Brodie is not as insightful as she flatters herself into thinking she is.
Themes
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Sandy feels warmly toward Miss Brodie when she sees how misled she is in her idea of Rose, who is not as sexually adventurous as Miss Brodie thinks. Later in life, after she has become a nun, Sandy never feels more affection for Miss Brodie “then when she thought upon Miss Brodie as silly.”
The juxtaposition between Sandy’s immature obsession with Miss Brodie and her later affection suggests how vulnerable people are to external influences as young people. It also highlights Miss Brodie’s humanness and charm.
Themes
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Even so, the Brodie girls are still considered by their classmates to be lacking in team spirit and to be a social unit unto themselves. Were other people not to perceive them as such, the girls would no doubt have gone each her own way by the time they had reached the age of sixteen. But the girls do not drift apart, not least because they find their position enviable: they are reputed to have more fun than other girls, and this is the truth.
Social groups are defined not just internally but also externally: the way people perceive a group in part solidifies its identity as a group. More than that, the Brodie girls do enjoy being Brodie girls; for all her shortcomings, Miss Brodie does create an engaging, dynamic environment for her special girls.
Themes
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Miss Brodie also rallies her special girls around her each time her teaching methods are opposed by the school authorities. She tells her girls that if those authorities do not dismiss her on the grounds of her educational methods, they will attempt to dismiss her through slander. She defends her relationship with Mr. Lowther as a close friendship, even though she has neglected him of late. Sandy thinks that this is so because Miss Brodie’s sexual feelings are satisfied by proxy, as her plan for Rose to become Mr. Lloyd’s lover reaches fulfillment. Miss Brodie claims that, if she wished, she could marry Mr. Lowther tomorrow.
Miss Brodie seems to sense that her dismissal can really only come about if one of her special girls betrays her, for only they have information sufficiently incriminating enough about her. She therefore strengthens their loyalty to her by treating them like her team members in a competition against Miss Mackay’s administration. Of course, her relationship with Mr. Lowther is more intimate than a close friendship.
Themes
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The morning after Miss Brodie makes this announcement, however, it is reported in the newspaper The Scotsman that Mr. Lowther has become engaged to Miss Lockhart. Nobody expected it, and Miss Brodie feels betrayed. The term following, Miss Brodie puts her spare energy into her plan for Rose to become Mr. Lloyd’s lover and for Sandy to become her informant on the affair. “What energy she had to spare from that,” the narrator says, “she now put into political ideas.”
It is clear from this passage that Miss Brodie’s plan for Rose to become Mr. Lloyd’s lover is not just Sandy’s invention, but a reality. It is Miss Brodie’s final attempt in her prime to direct fate and consummate, if only symbolically, her passionate love for Mr. Lloyd. Her turn to political ideas foreshadows her urging Joyce Emily to fight in the Spanish Civil War.
Themes
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Religion, Predestination, and Narrative Structure Theme Icon
Insight, Instinct, and Transfiguration Theme Icon