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Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The

a novel by Muriel Spark, published in 1961. The rise of fascism in Europe during the 1930s is one of the book's underlying themes, although its ostensible subject, the relationship between an eccentric and highly strung Edinburgh schoolmistress, Jean Brodie, and her acolytes, a group of adolescent schoolgirls, seems at first sight far removed from such a theme. As the novel progresses the parallels become more apparent: Miss Brodie, it emerges, is something of a dictator, employing her considerable charm and intelligence to fascinate her susceptible charges. One of them is so inspired by her teacher's admiration for Franco that she runs away to join the Civil Guard in the Spanish Civil War, and is killed in the attempt. Miss Brodie's malign influence extends to other areas of her pupils' experience: she tries to promote an affair between Rose Stanley, the prettiest member of the Brodie ‘set’, and Teddy Lloyd, the married art master, with whom she herself has had an affair; the plan goes wrong and Sandy Stewart, the intellectual of the group, becomes his mistress. Sandy, from whose point of view the action is seen, is a classic Spark protagonist—torn between her love for Miss Brodie and her equally strong desire for revenge against her. It is Sandy who eventually denounces her teacher to the authorities, for her alleged sympathies with Hitler; the novel is in fact an extended flashback in which Sandy, now Sister Helena of the Transfiguration, recalls these traumatic events and the loss of innocence that accompanied them.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog to Rabbit Tetralogy