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Fernanda Rojas
Professor Hunt
The Irony of Miss Jean Brodie:
Have you ever experienced a time when you felt that someone was controlling you? Every action
and every decision was not made on your own but rather by that manipulative person? Did you
even realize you were being controlled? That controlling person I speak of is a Miss Jean Brodie.
Miss Jean Brodie is the main superstar in the novel The prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel
Spark. This woman was very well known by the school in which she taught; almost every teacher
recognized her but did not understand her very well. Indeed she was a hard one to figure out, and
it bothered most of the staff at Edinburgh (she seemed mysterious and dangerous/ threat) the
most she was recognized for was the group of girls she formed and named the brodie set. Thus,
there are many ways in which Miss Jean Brodie manipulated these Brodie girls, most was very
ironic but then again Miss Brodie was ironic herself, and it is because of all these ironic ways
that we came to the conclusion that the theme of irony is found all throughout the novel.
To begin, within the first few chapters we discover that the brodie set were all famous in the
school, which is to say they were held in suspicion and not much liking (Spark, 2). Indeed, it
was Miss Brodie who carried all of this attention to the brodie girls, and it was also the reason
why the brodie set were disliked by many. However, this can be a little ironic because later in the
novel we come to discover that Miss Brodies girls were very much liked by Mr. Teddy Lloyd.
Teddy Lloyd was very fond of the brodie set, and they were pretty much the only group that was
ever invited to his studio. Lloyd was a painter, and he had such a passion for Miss brodie that he

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painted the brodie set to portray this Miss Jean Brodie. The brodie set were also very much in
love with Miss brodie and seemed to be focused on her a lot. This love for Miss Brodie is also
ironic because Miss Brodie is very controlling and possessive of the girls (its ironic how
someone would really love someone who is this way towards them). She claims I shall remain
at this education factory. There needs must be a leaven in the lump. Give me a girl at an
impressionable age, and she is mine for life (Spark, 6). That again is ironic because the brodie
set drifts apart in the end and Sandy (one of her girls) betrays her. Nevertheless, at the beginning
of the novel we are also able to understand other ways of manipulation from Miss Brodie (aside
from controlling the girls). It is made clear that Jean Brodie wants control over these girls; she
even decides what subjects she wants to teach them and puts personal thoughts into the girls
heads. For example, one day during a class lecture she asks Who is the greatest Italian painter?
Leonardo da Vinci, Miss Brodie she replies That is incorrect. The answer is Giotto, he is my
favourite (Stark, 8). Her answer is ironic, she could have answered in a different way but she
told the girls what she thinks is best (in this case her favorite painter).
In continuation, quite early in the novel we come to discover that Sandy will betray Miss
Brodie. Miss Brodie however never really suspects of Sandy, even when she mentions one day,
Sandy you will go too far... I have my eye on you. I observe a frivolous nature. I fear you will
never belong to lifes elite or as, one might say, the crme de la crme (Spark, 22). This is
ironic of Miss Brodie to say because she never truly does suspect of Sandy. She in fact is the
least person she would ever suspect of betraying her (she is one of her favorites). She says You
Sandy, as you see, I exempt from my suspicion, since you had no reason whatsoever to betray
me, indeed you have had the best part in my confidences and in the man I love. Think if you can,
who it could have been. I must know which one of you betrayed me (Spark, 135). As a

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reader, we also come to the conclusions that Miss Brodie spends a great deal of time thinking
about who could have betrayed her. She even believes that Mary McGregor could have been a
suspect and in the end Sandy was the one to betray her. When we find out that Sandy was the one
to betray Miss Brodie, we ask ourselves why did she? Perhaps it was that she was Jealous of
Miss brodie and had enough of her controlling? In Chapter five, Sandy had the definite feeling
that the brodie set, not to mention Miss Brodie herself, was getting out of hand. She thought it
perhaps a good thing that the set might split up (Spark, 108). Later on in chapter six, Sandy
mentions Im not really interested in world affairs, only in putting a stop to Miss Brodie
(Spark, 134). Both these examples demonstrate Sandys true feelings toward Miss Brodie and it
can also be ironic because she only wanted to have affairs with Teddy Lloyd because she wanted
to understand more about Miss Brodie and why she was so interested in this man.
Furthermore, intercourse is mentioned quite often in the novel and can also be ironic. For
example, we understand that Rose is misinterpreted as being famous for sex Why? Because
she does not truly care about any of those things and never really has sexual intercourse with
anyone; as shown in chapter 3, Later, she was famous for sex, her magnificently appealing
qualities lay in the fact that she had no curiosity about sex at all, she never reflected upon it
( Sparks, 58). It was because of this that Miss Brodie was using her to have sexual
relationships with Teddy Lloyd and bring satisfaction to herself. A turning point in the novel
happened when Teddy Lloyd kissed Sandy and she didnt know whether to feel disgusted or find
the slightest of pleasure in it. She began to have sexual relationships with Teddy Lloyd and no
word was mentioned to Miss Brodie about it. Instead Rose had an instinct to be satisfied with
this role, and in the event it was Sandy who slept with Teddy Lloyd and Rose who carried back
the information (Spark, 117). Of course Teddy Lloyd does not truly love Sandy or Rose the way

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he shows affection for Miss Brodie. He himself is very fond of her and no matter how hard he
tried he always seemed to find himself painting her as demonstrated in Chapter five Teddy
Lloyd shifted the new portrait so that it stood in a different light. It still looked like Miss Brodie
(Spark, 105). He then describes Miss Brodie as a magnificent woman in her prime and that is
why Sandy questions Miss Brodie. For in the novel, it is also ironic that Miss Brodie is not a
Roman Catholic.
In addition, when reading the novel and beginning to understand a little bit more of Miss Jean
Brodie, It is quite ironic how she does not consider herself a Roman Catholic. In chapter four,
Her disapproval of the church of Rome was based on her assertions that it was a church of
superstition, and that only people who did not want to think for themselves were Roman
Catholics (Sparks, 90). This is ironic because the Roman Catholic Church can be perhaps the
only church that could have embraced and disciplined her soaring and diving spirit. She
strongly believes that god supports her in any guiltiness situation where she can cause a
wrongdoing, even while going to bed with Mr. Lowther. It is also ironic how she finds Mr. Lloyd
attractive when he is a Roman Catholic himself. Moreover, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by
Muriel Spark, showcases many examples of the theme of irony, thus the whole entire book is
ironic. We see that Miss Brodie is a very controlling, and manipulative person, but somehow
people manage to be very fond of her (including herself) which again goes to show how even
Miss Brodie is ironic herself.


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1. Spark, Muriel. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. New York, NY: Harper Perennial,
1994. Print.