The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie


Muriel Spark

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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Themes

Themes and Colors
Authority and Social Groups Theme Icon
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Authority and Social Groups

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…

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Education vs. Intrusion

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a Bildungsroman, that is, a novel that has as one of its themes the formative years or spiritual education of a person. In developing this theme the novel dramatizes the distinction between education and intrusion. Miss Brodie herself defines education as a leading out of what is already in a student’s soul, whereas intrusion, she says, is a planting in a student’s mind of what was not there…

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Sexuality, One’s Prime, and Spinsterhood

The Brodie set’s transition from childhood to adulthood is marked primarily by changing attitudes toward sex: we follow Sandy, for example, from the time she and Jenny gossip about sex and, writing as Miss Brodie in a fictional letter, absurdly, hilariously congratulate Mr. Lowther on a good sexual performance, all the way into her eighteenth year, when she and Mr. Lloyd have an affair. But perhaps Sandy’s sexual curiosity is too prematurely and too…

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Religion, Predestination, and Narrative Structure

In early twentieth-century Edinburgh, the influence of Calvinism, a branch of Protestantism, was waning. Calvinists believe that human beings are so inherently and absolutely corrupted by original sin that they can only lead depraved lives, lives unworthy of salvation. However, God in His infinite mercy, and by His mercy alone, nonetheless elected before the world’s creation a few people to be saved through Jesus Christ, this election being mysteriously determined not based on faith or…

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Insight, Instinct, and Transfiguration

Miss Brodie can identify and transfigure common girls into extraordinary women, or such is her hope, anyway. She also has a pressing desire to experience transcendence, through art, sex, even radical politics—and transfiguring her girls so that they bear her image and so that she can in a small way guide their fates is her only real means of transcending the littleness of her life. Calvinism is a central context here: Miss Brodie reacts so…

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