The Rise to Miss Brodie’s Demise

Miss Jean Brodie, the protagonist in Muriel Spark\'s novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), is a character of great influence and arrogant dominance. As a schoolteacher in her prime, she believes she has an abundance of wisdom and knowledge about life\'s principles that she deeply desires to share with her students. Miss Brodie\'s character and disposition, though seemingly a positive influence, in essence leads to her demise. Her intense interest in fascism, her power to manipulate and influence her girls, her dogmatic teaching styles, her betrayal, her arrogance, and her loose morals all play major roles in her fall.

One of Miss Brodie\'s principle interests is fascism. She loves dictatorship, as long as she is the dictator. Her model dictators are Hitler, Franco, and Mussolini, all whom she believes to be great men: "[She] is even bold enough to make the general statement, ‘Mussolini is one of the greatest men in the world’ . . ." (Miss Brodie’s fascisti). She admires his methods of terminating unemployment. Miss Brodie, in her place of leadership in the classroom, uses the same techniques as her fascist heroes: "she absolved herself from wrong, placed thoughts into the minds of her disciples, and retained order by inducing fear into her girls. It is also evident in her prime that Miss Brodie is quite untouchable, managing to foil all the plots against her" (Miss Brodie’s fascisti). Miss Brodie selects students she knows neither them nor their parents will complain about her (Spark 25). Her fascist ideas prove to be disastrous when she encourages Rose Emily, a member of the set, to fight in the war and before Rose even gets to her destination she is killed.

Fascism, a prominent part of Miss Brodie’s character, gives her a great amount of power to manipulate and influence her girls. An example is when she tells them that teamwork is unnecessary. One of Miss Brodie’s girls, Sandy Stranger, ponders joining the Brownies, but "then the group-fright [seizes] her, and it [is] necessary to put the idea aside, because she loves Miss Brodie" (Spark 31). Miss Brodie claims to "give [her] best in [her] prime" (Spark 36), but she instead implants her own ideas into the girls’ minds, convincing them that her ideas are rational and true. The girls feel obligated to submit because of this and also because they are so devoted to her. Just as Miss Brodie’s heroes are only successful for a short time, she too inevitably falls from authority.

The girls’ devotion to Miss Brodie makes them more susceptible to the influence of her dogmatic teaching style, which only perpetuates their devotion. Her methods are self-centered. She teaches the subjects she believes ought to be taught, emphasizing her own opinions and discouraging the girls to have their own (Miss Brodie’s Conduct). She supports herself with the statement: "It is for the sake of you girls -- my influence. now, in the years of my prime" (Spark 25). To Miss Brodie, the most important subject is art. She gives very little credit to the practical use and necessity of science. She claims that in the order of educational importance, "Art . . . comes first; . . . lastly science" (Spark 24). She intentionally strays from the standard curriculum and when Miss Mackay, the head mistress, learns of this she is determined to terminate Miss Brodie’s teaching career. Miss Brodie is the victim of circumstances she creates herself (Bold 67).

Not all of Miss Brodie’s girls remain devout to her teachings. While still in junior school, Sandy Stranger comes to an understanding of what Miss Brodie is doing to her special group of girls. She sees the correlation between Miss Brodie and her girls and Mussolini and his followers. Being one of the set, Sandy feels betrayed. She realizes how much they are controlled by Miss Brodie and how they essentially obey her every command. Sandy’s objective is then "to put a stop to Miss Brodie" (Spark 134). Sandy betrays her by making Miss Brodie’s faults known to the head mistress and when Miss Brodie questions her, she only replies, "If you did not betray us it is impossible that you could have been betrayed by us" (Spark 136). Miss Brodie clearly betrays the