Archetypes of Modernism 35.docx

How does this novel explore the ideas and social textures of a changing age that had left traditionalism/Victorianism well behind? The idea of Modernism is relative in terms of era, culture, and historical development. However, modernist ideas,
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  1 Archetypes of Modernism in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie : A Critical Appraisal Introduction How does this novel explore the ideas and social textures of a changing age that had left traditionalism/Victorianism well behind? The idea of Modernism is relative in terms of era, culture, and historical development. However, modernist ideas, styles, values, and conventions are similar across the world. In literature, no novel can be completely modern or traditional. Many factors including the First World War one and two (WW 1 and 2) contributed to the development of Modernism. The results of the war created a new way of thinking in sexuality, fashion, marriage, love, death, and the very idea of the omnipresence and omnipotence of God was challenged and questioned. As Malcolm Bradbury (1993) argued, the modern age is a secular age, an age of machine, science and an age of technological advancement. In literature, it is an age where Mrs. Brown ’s life  is expected to be caught in narration. As Virginia Woolf argued that “life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; but a luminous halo…” . Human existence is seen as pieces of events and not a straight line of actions. The modern British novel is expected to have segmental plot, incoherent narration, and no sequential arrangement, while ideas are conglomeration of pieces. Parts and unrelated stories are pieced together while ideas are narrated in the stream of consciousness. There is the use of flash-back and flash-forward in examining what is going on in the mind of the character so as to be able to catch Mrs. Brown. The modernist temper invokes questions. Nothing ends, things just stopped. No absolute truth exists in modern consciousness, and the notion of heroism quite different from traditionalism is not fixed. Existence precedes essence in modernism unlike the traditional writers to whom essence precedes existence. This position though has generated different  2 arguments in the larger academic sociology, however, to the modernists, just like the question of which comes first, the hen or the egg where the hen created the egg only to later on be influenced  by it. In same vein, existence comes before essence but could be influenced by it and vice versa. How well could art and science reduce the bestiality in humans? And at the heart of this novel is the question of education, which method is best in the education of the people? Which principle and what really is education? Modernism glorifies the isolation of the main character. The character is disconnected from the public and the narration tends to be biographical. The novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie critically discussed quintessential of modernism, and this essay will rely on the scholarly essay of George Luckas and Virginia Woolf in critically appraising the archetypes of modernism inherent in the novel. Synopsis A novel set in the Marcia Blain School Edinburgh; it chronicles the teacher- students’ relationship between Miss Brodie and her six girls known as the Brodie set. Each of the girls has her peculiarity. Mary McGregor is famous for being a silent lump, Jenny Gray is famous for her speech assent, Monica Douglas is known for her brilliance in mathematics, Rose Stanley is famous for sex, Eunice Gardiner is famous for gymnastics, and Sandy Stranger is famous for her notorious non- existent eyes and her vowel sound. Miss Brodie’s utmost aim for the girls is to make them the crème de la crème in the society. Besides this, she finds the girls as her only source of replenishment. She exposes them to various knowledge and experiences. She tells them about her love affairs with her late husband, and a whole lot of history. She is fond of Italian Fascist government and ideology under Bennito Mussolini, an attraction which is later used against her. Miss Brodie studies her girls along. By the time they promoted to the senior school, she never loses touch with them. At this time, she desires a confidant among the girls. She  3 chooses her two best, Sandy Stranger and Rose Stanley. Earlier it has been revealed that Miss Brodie is later betrayed. Who betrayed her? Sandy eventually becomes her confidant. She is instructed by Miss Brodie to keep a watch on Rose to discover if she will sleep with the art master, Mr. Lloyd. Through Sandy herself, it is revealed that she eventually betrays Miss Brodie  by telling the headmistress, Miss McKay that Miss Brodie is a supporter of fascism and has often taught the students its doctrines. Earlier the feud between Miss Brodie and Miss McKay has been shown. How best should education be taught is at the heart of the novel? Miss Brodie is a supporter of new innovations in education while Miss McKay is a believer of conservatism. The headmistress had wanted any available means to see Miss Brodie leave the school due to this ideological difference . The popular word “I am in my prime” developed from here when Miss Brodie discovered the evil plot. Her death is reported in the novel though the cause is not told. But it is revealed that Sandy’s report of her leads to her compulsory retirement. The depression from such could be the cause of her death. Sandy who is to monitor Rose ’s  affairs with the art master ends up sleeping with him many times. She ends the relationship abruptly and goes on to embrace Catholicism. She becomes a nun, and changed name to St Helena of the Transfiguration. She writes a psychology book whose inspiration she said comes from one Miss Brodie in her prime. Her character portraiture debunks Luckas’s critical argument that modernist narration is too individualistic. Archetypes of Modernism in the Novel The Question of Education What is education, and what should be its principles? This question is at the heart of the novel. In modern world, how should education be instilled and what type of education should be learned?  4 The character of Miss Brodie and Miss McKay are used to probe this salient question. Miss McKay represents the Conservative ideology on education. Her doctrine is that education is  putting in what is not there before; it should not be taken outside the established norms and  principles. Education to her is that effort to fill up the plain mind of the pupils. But to Miss Brodie, education is leading out; it should be taken out of the norms and allowed to encompass things outside the principles. Education to her is trying to open up and activate the dormant mind of the pupils about real life. The mind of the pupils is not empty or plain as might be thought of. This ideological divergence caused the feud between the two. The headmistress, Miss McKay sought the retirement of Miss Brodie from the school because of this. Miss Brodie maintains her  principle of education. She teaches her pupils, politics, history and things outside the school curricula such as love affairs, sexuality, home maintenance etc. she encouraged one of her pupil who wished to join the Spanish war to go. Miss Brodie’s idea is thought as too dangerous  by the authority, though educating the mind is paramount and the teacher plays crucial roles. Fragmentation The novel is a fragmentation of dissimilar events and ideas. The plot of the novel is unfolded in a non-sequential style. There is lack of coherence and harmony in the presentation of ideas and events in the novel. Fragmentation is one of the principles of modernism in narration. As argued  by Virginia Woolf (1924), “life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; but a luminous halo…” This is because existence to the modernist is seen as chattered, incoherent,  pieced, and disjointed. Man’s life cannot be straight and completely harmonious. Chapter two for  5 instance is not the continuation of chapter one, and within each chapters, there is incoherence of narration. Stream of Consciousness There is the use of stream of consciousness in the narration of events in the novel. Being a narrative device that gives the written equivalent of thoughts and mind processes of a character, stream of consciousness makes use of prolepsis (flash forward), and anaplesis ( flash-back), and introspection in the narration of events in a work. Main events in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie  are revealed through flash-forward. The betrayer and eventual death of Miss Brodie is shown through the style. The death of Gardiner in the fire that engulfed the hotel room is also told through flash-forward. Most events in the novel are told through the omniscient narration style. Fragments are however united in a way with this narrative style, though characters in the novel unite those fragments more. The effect of stream of consciousness is to sustain readership and allow clarity in the narration of events. Unending Condition of Things A modernist archetype is the idea that no truth remains eternal. Conditions of things might stop, it cannot end. There is no absolute truth. The relationship of Miss Brodie and her set reveals this modernist idiosyncrasy. She aims to make her set the crème de la crème by exposing them to things outside the school principles. To the pupils, these are the ultimate truth for them at that stage. In fact one of the pupils cried when Miss Brodie told them about her crashed relationship. However later, the set continue to see things from another entirely different angle. They start to ask questions from Miss Brodie unlike when they always agree with her hook sinker and line. This perhaps leads Sandy to betray her. We are told about the death of Miss Brodie but her
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