Short summary - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Dame Muriel Sarah Spark

British literature summaries -

Short summary - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Dame Muriel Sarah Spark

The heroines of the novel are six girls-schoolgirls, united in the "Brody clan" by the will of their beloved teacher, Miss Gene Brody. The action takes place in Edinburgh in the thirties. Miss Brodie runs a small girls' primary school class in a respectable private school. At one of the first lessons of history, Miss Brody tells instead of a lecture the tragic plot of her first love - her fiancé died in the war a week before the truce - which touches the girls to tears. So begins her classes in "Truth, Goodness and Beauty" using the most unconventional methods. Giving herself up to raising children, she gave them, in her own beloved expression, «the fruits of her heyday».


Miss Brodie, at the time of her prime, despite unconventional methods, was not at all an exceptional phenomenon, or not quite in her mind. Her uniqueness consisted only in the fact that she taught at such a conservative educational institution. In the thirties, such as Miss Brody, there were legions: women thirty and older who filled their destitute warfare ancient life with vigorous activity in the fields of art and social welfare, enlightenment and religion. Some were feminists and promoted the most advanced ideas, others were limited to participation in women's committees and church meetings. However, women of the first category did not teach, of course, in conservative schools, there they did not have a place. That's what Miss Brodie's colleagues thought. But Miss Brody, surrounded by her disciples, the Brody clan, remained inaccessible to intrigue. «Unshakable, like a rock,» her fans admire admirably, while she proudly walks along the school corridor to the scornful greetings of her more ordinary colleagues.


Miss Brodie seems extraordinary, at least in a school setting. She is not beautiful and not at all young, but at the time of «her prime» she is experiencing flashes of genuine charm, and in such moments she is unusually good. She is also extremely attractive to men and wins the hearts of the two only male teachers at school.

With the heyday of Miss Brody, the first steps of striking spiritual evolution take place, changing internally and externally as rapidly as her growing pupils. While the girls are still studying under her supervision in elementary grades, Miss Brody turns math, English or history lessons into peculiar excursions to all areas of human culture, from eroticism to fascism: her passionate artistic nature, who knows no religious prohibitions, worships both, and meanwhile Giotto and Mary Stuart.

Gradually, imperceptibly for herself, a risky belief in her own sinlessness grows in her; during its heyday, it transcends the boundaries of any ethics and reaches a truly shocking degree of immorality.

But so far its influence on the Brody clan is unlimited. It consists of six girls: Monica Douglas, known for mathematical abilities and wild outbursts of anger, athletic Eunice Gardner, graceful Jenny Gray, slow-witted Mary McGregor, Sandy Stranger with unusually tiny piggy eyes and who later became famous for her sex appeal Rose Stanley. They grow under the powerful spiritual influence of Miss Brody, their inner life is completely filled with an analysis of the observations of their teacher. Once during an excursion, Miss Brody explains to the girls what, in fact, means teaching to her. Educating children, she highlights the qualities inherent in them by nature, but she is also required to invest information that is alien to them in children. She convinces the "clan" that, growing up, each girl must find and realize "her calling," as she found her in them.

Miss Brodie is heading to the peak of her prime; girls grow up and develop with her. It seems to her that no one better than her guesses the true calling of the children, and makes frantic efforts to instruct the girls on the only right way, as it seems to her.

Each of the "Brody clan" lives an individual and unique fate, completely different from the callings conceived by Miss Brody. Her posthumous role in their adult lives is much subtler and more complex.


More tragic than the rest is Mary McGregor, an unrequited fool for friends and Miss Brody. She dies at twenty-three in a burning hotel and shortly before her death, in a sad moment, decides that the happiest moments in her short life were those that she spent in the company of Miss Brody and her «clan», albeit on a slow-thinking basis. All girls in their own way betray the ideals of Miss Brody. Shortly before dying from cancer, their mentor finally survives from school under the pretext of preaching fascism to children. Miss Brodie, in fact, almost naively admired the order and discipline in the countries of fascism along with monuments and fountains. And now Sandy Stanger, her confidant, already on the threshold of graduation prompts the director, Miss Brody's main ill-wisher, to find fault with political convictions and force Miss Brody to resign. Sandy goes the most difficult and contradictory way. The betrayal of her leads confidence that the activities of Miss Brody are ultimately harmful to her favorites. The fact is that Miss Brody falls in love with a drawing teacher, Teddy Lloyd, a large Catholic. Realizing that this love is not feasible, she, as if to spite herself, enters into a relationship with Gordon Loiter, a music teacher. However, loving Teddy, she believes that one of the girls should replace her and become his mistress. She puts her heart and soul into this wild plan, according to which Rose Stanley, the most feminine of the girls, should surrender to the artist instead. However, Rose is completely indifferent to Teddy, and Sandy becomes his mistress. At the same time, Miss Brody was and remains the true muse of the artist, and with amazement Sandy sees that no matter which of the girls of the "clan" Teddy draws, Miss Brody's features always showed in her. Sandy, possessing the psychologist’s cold, analyzing mind, cannot reconcile herself to the mystery of the mysterious and powerful influence of the «funny old maid» on everyone around. It soon turns out that one of Miss Brodie’s fans, who does not belong to the «clan,» succumbs to her agitation and escapes to Spain to fight on the side of the fascist Franco. She dies on the way on the train. Then, horrified, Sandy gives Miss Brody the director, and she hints at Miss Brody. The idea of betrayal undermines the indomitable spirit of Miss Brody. Until her death, she never ceases to torment herself and others with barren speculation. In fact, it seems to Sandy, the entire "clan" betrays Miss Brody, renouncing the "callings." Miss Brody saw in her girls «instinct and insight,» worthy of a full and vibrant life. Sandy, after the betrayal, leaves for the monastery, where she is unhappy and disappointed. Rose Stanley becomes a virtuous wife, although she has a new Venus, «a great lover,» according to Miss Brody. But they all feel that they have deceived themselves.

Over the years of friendship with Miss Brody, they are so imbued with her faith that they acquire an inner spiritual resemblance to her, which the artist Teddy Lloyd correctly caught in his paintings.