Sunday, January 13, 2013
A Review of 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' by Muriel Spark
This is one of the first few times I've enjoyed a book that was assigned to me. This story centers around one teacher and examines how one's influence impacts the lives of those around us. Reading into this aspect of the book was both wonderful and scary. The girls in this Brodie set at the very beginning of the book are so young, maybe around the age of eight or nine, and until recently, I've forgotten how impressionable that age can be.
The story is set in Edinburgh, Scotland, but were the girls in the U.S. school system today, they'd be in third or fourth grade. As I write this review long after finishing the book (which I finished in December 2012 and am therefore counting towards last year's goal), I've started volunteering in a fifth grade classroom (I'll write more about that in a separate post) adding to my experience in High-5, Kindergarten, and first grade. So I can attest to how impressionable kids this age are. Even when kids are in fifth grade, which is a time when they're searching for a little bit more independence, the teachers are the oracle and the students are the wayward orfs vying for the knowledge we have (when they're not being distracted by "boy/girlfriends" and cell phones...).
Miss Brodie is definitely the oracle to the Brodie set. She predicts their lots in life, which is a huge influence in and of itself. If you're given a label, you either take on that role or you completely defy it, both of which happen in this book. She tells them which track she thinks is the best in school, which tears the students apart. Many are trying to please Miss Brodie.
While this is not the main idea of the book, it's kind of opened up my eyes when it comes to how careful I need to be as a teacher. My influence may not necessarily be a positive step in another's future. The trick is, how are we to know for certain?
I liked watching how the girls changed from impressionable young minds to grown up and relatively free-thinking young ladies. I adore books like these. I think they make me a tiny bit nostalgic... or grateful that I never have to return to that age again.
I did not like how manipulative Miss Brodie was of everyone and how she was a martyr about it. She led on two different men, one of whom was obsessed with her, but who was already attached and another who was a good match and completely single. She spent time with the eligible gentleman, but played it off as a personal sacrifice because he was lonely. When she was teaching, she said that she chose to dedicate her time to the girls because she was in her prime and her prime must be taken advantage of. Another personal sacrifice.
Overall, I really liked reading this book. I would recommend this if you're a fan of Scottish literature or are looking for a relatively short book that makes you constantly wonder, "But why?"
I give 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie':