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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day

Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day

Muriel Spark, a novelist, poet and essayist, was born to Bernard Camberg and Sarah Elizabeth Maud in 1918 in Edinburg Scotland. She attended James Gillespie‘s High School for Girls. She worked as an English Teacher and later as a Secretary for a while before she married Sidney Oswald Spark in 1937. Their marriage was blessed with a son, Robin, but the marriage did not last as her husband was said to be a maniac whose violent attacks did not help the marriage. She left her husband and son in 1940 and though she had planned to have a good relationship with her son, she had a strained relationship with him throughout her life. She converted to Catholicism in 1954. She produced a collection of short stories and poems. Her works include The Comforters(1957), Robinson (1958), The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960), The Bachelors (1960), The Girls of Slender Means (1963) Momento Mori, The Mandelbaum Gate (1965), The Public Image (1968), Not to Disturb (1971), The Hothouse by the East River (1973), The Abbewes of Crewe (1974), The Takeover (1976), The Territorial Rights (1979), A Far Cry From Kensington (1988), Symposium (1990) and The Driver’s Seat (1970) and so on. Muriel Spark died on 13th April 2006 in Italy.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
It is the early 1930s. At the Marcia Blaine School, located in Edinburgh, Scotland, a class of ten-year-old girls begins two years of instruction with Miss Jean Brodie, a charismatic teacher at the Junior school who claims again and again to be in her ―prime.‖ She provides her pupils with an energetic and unorthodox education in unauthorized topics as various as poetry, makeup, Italian fascism under Mussolini, and her own love life, believing that Goodness, Truth, and Beauty are of supreme value, and that the arts hold a higher place than the sciences. In time, Miss Brodie singles out six girls as special to her, and who she intends to mould into ―‗the crème de la crème‘‖: Sandy Stranger, Rose Stanley, Mary Macgregor, Jenny Gray, Monica Douglas, and Eunice Gardiner. These girls come to be known as the Brodie set, whom Miss Brodie culturally develops and confides in. However, in one of the novel‘s characteristic prolepses (fast-forwards), we learn that one of these girls will eventually betray Miss Brodie, though Miss Brodie never learns which.
The girls‘ other teachers at the Junior school include the art master, the handsome, sophisticated Mr. Teddy Lloyd, a Roman Catholic who lost his arm during World War I, as well as the singing master, the short-legged and long-bodied Mr. Gordon Lowther. Both of these men come to love Miss Brodie, but Miss Brodie is passionate only about Teddy Lloyd, whom she commends for his artistic nature. The two kiss once, as witnessed by Monica Douglas, but Miss Brodie soon renounces her love for Teddy Lloyd, as he is married with six children. Instead, she commences an affair with the unmarried Mr. Lowtherduring a two-week leave of absence (although she claims that her absence is due to illness).
Meanwhile, the highly imaginative, psychologically penetrating Sandy becomes increasingly obsessed with Miss Brodie‘s love life, going so far as to imagine her teacher having sexual intercourse. At one point in their two years in the Junior school, Jenny who is Sandy‘s best friend is accosted by a man exposing his genitals to her near the Water of Leith (a river that runs through Edinburgh), an incident investigated by a female policewoman. Sandy falls in love with the idea of this policewoman, and imagines that she is in the police force alongside her, with the purpose of preventing sex altogether. She also imagines that she and her invented policewoman should investigate the love affair between Miss Brodie and Mr. Lowther. At the age of twelve, the girls leave Miss Brodie‘s class and graduate to the Senior school, where they are taught by teachers like the excellent science instructor Miss Lockhart, all of whom are committed to the authorized curriculum that Miss Brodie neglected. Nonetheless, the girls retain their group identity as the Brodie set, even though they have nothing in common save being picked out by Miss Brodie, whom they visit as they did as students at the Junior school, going with her to the ballet and other places.
The headmistress of Blaine, Miss Mackay, has all the while been fostering a professional disapproval of Miss Brodie‘s educational methods and scorn for the group identity of her six special girls; she wishes Miss Brodie would leave Blaine to teach at another school, but Miss Brodie dismisses the idea.
Consequently, Miss Mackay attempts to extract incriminating facts from the girls about their former teacher that might allow her to dismiss Miss Brodie. Miss Macaky also attempts to break the Brodie set up. Both attempts fail; the Brodie girls are unflaggingly loyal to their beloved teacher and to the principles of collectivism, love, and loyalty she instilled in them. Miss Brodie‘s love affair with Mr. Lowther continues; when the sewing teachers at Blaine, the sisters Miss Ellen and Alison Kerr, begin to work as housekeepers for Mr. Lowther, and encroach on Miss Brodie‘s exclusive claim to him, she asserts her influence by coming to Mr. Lowther‘s house whenever the Kerr sisters are there so that she can oversee them. She criticizes them for skimping on their employer‘s meals, and sets about fattening Mr. Lowther up. She also begins to invite her special girls, now thirteen years old, to socialize with her in pairs at her lover‘s house. She asks them often about Mr. Lloyd, for several of the girls, especially Rose Stanley, have begun to sit for portraits with their art teacher. Miss Brodie especially enjoys hearing about how each face Mr. Lloyd paints strangely resembles her own. One day in Mr. Lloyd‘s studio, Sandy points this fact out to Mr. Lloyd himself, glaring at him insolently; Mr. Lloyd kisses the young girl, and she doesn‘t know what to think about it.
As the girls grow from thirteen to fourteen and fourteen to fifteen, Miss Brodie determines that she can trust Sandy absolutely as her informant and confidant. Miss Brodie is also becoming increasingly fixated on the idea that Rose—as the most instinctual of the Brodie set and famous for sex (although Rose has no interest in sex)—should have a love affair with Mr. Lloyd as her, Miss Brodie‘s, proxy. Miss Brodie additionally plans on Sandy being her informant regarding the affair. Indeed, so fixated does Miss Brodie become on this strange plan that she neglects Mr. Lowther, who, to everyone‘s surprise, soon becomes engaged to the senior school science instructor Miss Lockhart. During this time, another girl, the ―rather mad‖ and delinquent Joyce Emily Hammond, is sent by her rich parents to Blaine as a last resort. She desperately wants to attach herself to the Brodie set, but they won‘t have anything to do with her. Miss Brodie, however, will. She spends time with Joyce Emily one-on-one, and privately encourages her in her desire to run away and fight in the Spanish Civil War under Francisco Franco‘s Nationalist banner (Miss Brodie admires Franco, who like Mussolini is a fascist). Swiftly and shockingly, Joyce Emily does so, only to be killed when the train she is travelling in is attacked. The school holds a remembrance service for her.
The Brodie girls, having turned seventeen and upon entering their final year at Blaine, begin to drift apart. Mary Macgregor and Jenny Gray leave before taking their final exams, Mary to become a typist, Jenny to enroll at a school of dramatic arts. Monica Douglas becomes a scientist, and Eunice Gardiner becomes a nurse and marries a doctor.
Rose makes a good marriage, and easily shakes off Miss Brodie‘s influence. Sandy decides to pursue psychology. During this period, both Sandy and Rose, now eighteen years of age, continue to go to Mr. Lloyd‘s house to model for him. One day, alone with Mr. Lloyd while his wife and children are on holiday, Sandy commences a love affair with him, usurping Rose‘s role in Miss Brodie‘s plan (Rose never had any erotic feelings for Mr. Lloyd, nor he for her). The two carry on for five weeks during the summer and even once Mr. Lloyd‘s wife and children return home. But by the end of the year Sandy loses interest in Mr. Lloyd as a man, becoming more and more exclusively interested in his painter‘s mind, as well as in his obsession with Miss Brodie as it is documented on his canvases. She eventually leaves Teddy altogether, but takes with her his Roman Catholic beliefs.
That following autumn, Sandy approaches Miss Mackay and announces for reasons never made explicit that she is interested ―‗in putting a stop to Miss Brodie.‘‖ She tells Miss Mackay about Miss Brodie‘s side interest in fascist politics and suggests that by following up on this lead Miss Mackay will at last have the incriminating evidence she needs to dismiss Miss Brodie. And indeed, presumably connecting Miss Brodie to Joyce Emily‘s running away, Miss Mackay at last succeeds in forcing Miss Brodie to retire. Sandy‘s betrayal is complete, and it won‘t be until the end of World War II, when she is near death, that Miss Brodie can bring herself to think that it was her most intimate confidant Sandy who betrayed her. By middle age, Sandy becomes the author of a famous psychological treatise entitled ―The Transfiguration of the Commonplace‖ as a Roman Catholic nun called Saint Helena of the Transfiguration.
Over the years, she receives several visitors at her convent, mostly Brodie girls, and invariably, the conversation turns to Miss Brodie: Sandy suggests that Miss Brodie was silly but also an enlarging presence, yet she also suggests that neither she nor any other Brodie girl owed Miss Brodie any loyalty. One day, a young man comes to the convent to interview Sandy about her famous work in psychology, asking her at one point, ―‗What were the main influences of your schooldays, Sister Helena? Were they literary or political or personal? Was it Calvinism?‘‖ Sandy responds: ―‗There was a Miss Jean Brodie in her prime‘‖; it would seem that she of all the Brodie set was most deeply influenced by their strange, charismatic teacher. It is also ironic that she who is the closest to Miss Brodie betrayed her. 3.3 Themes and Techniques in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Love: Miss Jean Brodie decides to forgo her love life so that she could be committed to bringing up her girls to become the crème de la crème in the society. While she was still the girls‘ teacher, Miss Jean Brodie becomes emotionally involved with two teachers namely: Mr Lowther, the music teacher and Mr Lloyd, the arts teacher. It is obvious that she is truly in love with Mr Lloyd but she goes ahead in a relationship with Mr. Lowther. She also recounts her experiences with her old lover. The theme of love recurs in the novel.
Loyalty and Betrayal: Though Miss Mackay the headmistress tries her best to get information from the girls so that she could get rid of Jean Brodie from the school, the girls refuse to betray Miss Brodie. They remain loyal to her even after their promotion to upper class. At some point, Jean Brodie decides to test the girls‘ loyalty and concludes that Sandy Stranger is the most loyal of the girls. However, the supposedly most loyal Sandy betrays her though Jean Brodie is unaware of this. Sandy does not think that she owes Miss Brodie any loyalty. Obsession with Control: Miss Jean Brodie is determined to have a set of young girls that would become members of the upper class in the society. Her obsession for control robs the girls of their individuality and uniqueness as they all begin to look and behave like her. In an attempt to maintain her hold on the girls‘ lives, she assigns roles and future professions to each of them. She does not think that she should allow them to choose for themselves but thrusts her opinion about life on them. Education: As a teacher, Miss Jean Brodie knows how important education is to young minds and its effect on what they eventually grow up to become. Her decision to jettison the formal curriculum for an informal one creates a gulf in their education. Once they move to a higher class, they are unable to meet up academically because of the imbalance. Teaching them from personal experiences and history gives the girls a restricted form of education which deprives them of the benefits of mainstream formal education. Miss Brodie‘s personality becomes the major factor in the shape that their lives take in future as we see in the examples of Mary Macgregor and Sandy Stranger. Techniques Loss of Structure and Fragmentation: As a typical postmodernist novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie does not have a structured or linear plot. Stories are narrated in a disjointed manner and the reader is left to make sense of them by making connections. The narration of events in the novel is fragmented. As a postmodern writer, Spark ensures that the inner consciousness of characters is unknown. The reader is left to decide and conclude on what is ―true‖ about the characters and their experiences. We do not know the thought of Miss Jean Brodie or the thoughts of any of her students. We only know that Brodie is a complex and eccentric character that wants to shape the lives of the girls. We are unable to determine why she behaves in this way or how she has become this kind of character. This leaves us with many questions unanswered, more unknown than known. Her world like the narration is fragmented and conclusions are difficult to draw. 3.4 Characterisation in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Miss Brodie: Miss Brodie, with her dark Roman profile, is a charismatic but unorthodox teacher at the Blaine Junior school. She doesn‘t instruct her girls in history and arithmetic, say, so much as she shares with them poetry, makeup tips, the virtues of fascism, her own romantic history and the like. Although she is a woman of culture and even has something of an artistic nature, Miss Brodie can also be dogmatic, manipulative, and cruel. Just as the predestining God of Calvinism elects the few to salvation, so does
Miss Brodie elect six of her pupils to become her special girls, girls whom she develops culturally and confides in, and who in turn loyally admire her—these six girls make up the ―Brodie set‖. Miss Brodie‘s power over those around her—not just her pupils but also the men in her life—stems in part from her feeling that she is in her prime, that is, at the height of her charisma both sexual and otherwise. Indeed, she loves the Blaine art teacher Mr. Lloyd and he loves her, but, as he is married, Miss Brodie renounces her love for him, becoming intimate instead with the singing teacher Mr. Lowther. Nonetheless, she subtly grooms the instinctual Rose Stanley to have a love affair with Mr. Lloyd as her proxy, and she grooms her favorite, the insightful Sandy, to serve as her informant in regards to the affair. In this way, Miss Brodie plays God, determining the course of fate. But, in the end, all of Miss Brodie‘s plots go awry: it is Sandy, not Rose, who ends up sleeping with Mr. Lloyd, and it is Sandy who betrays Miss Brodie to the Blaine headmistress, for Miss Brodie in her enthusiasm for fascism encouraged a Blaine student named Joyce Emily to fight in the Spanish Civil War. So it is that Miss Brodie is forced into retirement, a pale memory in the minds of her special girls save Sandy, who both recognizes that Miss Brodie had an enlarging effect on her, but also doubts whether Miss Brodie was worthy of her loyalty. Sandy Stranger: Miss Brodie‘s favorite and most intimate confidant, Sandy is highly imaginative and deeply interested in analyzing human behavior—she has ―got insight,‖ as Miss Brodie tells her. She becomes deeply, even obsessively interested in Miss Brodie‘s love affairs, going so far as to create fictionalized accounts of them with her best friend Jenny when the two are only young girls. But fiction later becomes fact when, in her eighteenth year, Sandy seduces Miss Brodie‘s beloved Mr. Lloyd—in part because she is interested in his obsession with Miss Brodie and with his Roman Catholicism—thereby becoming her teacher‘s proxy in the affair (a role Miss Brodie herself anticipated that Rose Stanley would fill). Nonetheless, and rather surprisingly, Sandy also at last betrays Miss Brodie, suggesting as she does to the Blaine headmistress Miss Mackay that Miss Brodie‘s interest in fascism may well provide grounds for forcing her to retire. And so it does. Why Sandy would betray Miss Brodie, however, remains one of the novel‘s most haunting open questions. After graduating from Blaine, she converts to Roman Catholicism and becomes a nun known as Sister Helena. When asked what her greatest girlhood influence was, Sandy, now in middle age, responds: ―There was a Miss Jean Brodie in her prime.‖ Rose Stanley: Rose is a member of the Brodie set, an appealing blonde ―famous for sex‖ in her later years at the Marcia Blaine School even though has no curiosity about sex whatsoever, never talks about sex, and does not indulge in it presumably until marriage. Miss Brodie holds out hope that Rose, along with Sandy, will prove to be the ―‗the crème de la crème‘‖ of her pupils, and claims that Rose herself has instinct, a quality she admires in her. Indeed, when Rose begins modeling for Mr. Lloyd‘s portraits, Miss Brodie gets it into her head that the girl will have a love affair with him as her, Miss
Brodie‘s proxy, and she plans for this to come about; but it never does, for Mr. Lloyd has no sexual interest in Rose and Rose merely poses for him because she needs the money to fund her ―addiction‖ to the cinema (i.e. movies). After graduating from Blaine, Rose marries well and, in contrast to Sandy, shakes off ―Miss Brodie‘s influence as a dog shakes pond-water from its coat.‖ Mary Macgregor: She is the scapegoat among the girls and the least loved. Mary does not have the sexual appeal that Rose possesses or the intelligence of Sandy. She seems to be an ―extra baggage‖ in the novel whose life is of no consequence, a girl who seems to get blamed for every offence committed. We are not surprised to see that her stupidity in later years climaxes with her death in a hotel fire. Brodie did not show kindness to Mary and members of her set were also cruel to her. Jenny Gray: She is the best friend of Sandy and co-author of a fictionalized romantic tale from the stories Miss Brodie had told them about her fiancé Hugh Carruthers. Later both of them make up stories about the female detective who interviews Jenny about the man who exposed himself to her. She sings beautifully and intends to be an actress. Her character is used to demonstrate that the efforts of Miss Brodie in a way are not wasted. The fact that she embraces the arts attests to this. Mr Lowther: He is the school‘s music teacher. He resembles Mr. Lloyd but is less attractive, long-bodied and short-legged, he also owns a rich estate in Cramond. He is sexually attracted to Miss Brodie and they both are involved sexually for some time. However, to show that sexual attraction is not enough to build a strong relationship on, he chooses Miss Lockhart, the beautiful science teacher, as wife.
Monica Douglas: A member of the Brodie set famous for her mathematical ability and violent anger. After graduating from Blaine, Monica goes into science and marries a man who later demands a separation from her, after she throws a live coal at his sister.
Eunice Gardiner: A member of the Brodie set famous for ―her spritely gymnastics and glamorous swimming,‖ Eunice is at first quiet, and so it is strange that she joins the Brodie set at all; but she soon becomes very
entertaining to the other girls, and fits right in. After graduating, Eunice becomes a nurse and marries a doctor.
Mr. Teddy Lloyd: The art teacher at Blaine, Mr. Lloyd is handsome and sophisticated, half Welsh and half English, with red and gold hair. He lost his left arm during World War I. While they are colleagues together at Blaine, Mr. Lloyd falls deeply in love with Miss Brodie and she with him. But Mr. Lloyd is a married man, and so Miss Brodie renounces her love for him altogether, bestowing it instead on Mr. Lowther. So strong is Miss Brodie‘s love for Teddy despite this, however, that she arranges a plot whereby her student Rose Stanley is to become Mr. Lloyd‘s lover in her stead. So strong is Mr. Teddy Lloyd‘s love for Miss Brodie, in turn, that all of the people he paints portraits of, including the Brodie girls, resemble Miss Brodie herself. Ultimately, Miss Brodie‘s plot
fails: it is not Rose but Sandy who ends up having a love affair with Mr. Lloyd, in part because Sandy is so interested in Teddy‘s obsession with Miss Brodie—an obsession which she shares.
Miss Lockhart: The Senior science teacher at Blaine, Miss Lockhart is, in contrast to Miss Brodie, a teacher dedicated to nothing more than teaching her subject rigorously and well. She does not regard the girls in her class as personalities but as students, which they appreciate. Toward the end of the novel, Miss Lockhart becomes engaged to Mr. Lowther.
Joyce Emily Hammond: A rich and delinquent girl sent to Blaine as a last resort, Joyce Emily very much wants to attach herself to the Brodie set, but the other girls resist her. Nonetheless, Miss Brodie makes time for Joyce Emily, going so far as to urge this ―rather mad‖ girl to run off to fight for Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Joyce Emily does so and dies in that conflict, a fact which Miss Mackay later uses against Miss Brodie in forcing her to retire.
Miss Ellen and Alison Kerr: The two sewing teachers at Blaine, the Kerr sisters are meek Calvinists who begin housekeeping for Mr. Lowther, and it seems as though one might even marry him. However, Miss Brodie crushes their prospects by becoming intimate with the singing teacher herself. Later, Miss Ellen Kerr discovers Miss Brodie‘s nightdress under one of Mr. Lowther‘s pillows, which she tells Miss Mackay about. But as much as she wishes to dismiss Miss Brodie, Miss Mackay recognizes that the nightdress is insufficient proof of scandal to justify Miss Brodie‘s dismissal.
Miss Gaunt: A gaunt woman, and the sister of a Calvinist minister, Miss Gaunt substitutes for Miss Brodie at Blaine in the autumn of 1931. Unlike Miss Brodie‘s influence on the classroom, Miss Gaunt‘s presence in the classroom subtracts, in her students‘ minds, from the sexual significance of things. She becomes like a sister to Miss Ellen and Alison Kerr and advises
them to make their arrangement with Mr. Lowther permanent, but due to Miss Brodie‘s intervention this does not come to pass. 3.5 A Postmodern Reading of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie The novel entails core postmodernist themes and attributes. The life of Jean Brodie is characterized by constant feeling of loneliness and isolation. However, a proper modernist template will be to leave Jean Brodie in the state of loneliness and alienation from the society. She obviously has a separate view of what education is and how education should be delivered from her headmistress and a larger number of teachers in the school. However, instead of ending the novel on the note that she is unsuccessful in her attempt to connect with other characters in the novel, her loneliness becomes a

creative tool that Muriel Spark plays on to make the novel an enjoyable read. Miss Jean Brodie raises a set of young girls and imparts her knowledge of life into them, and instead of attempting a connection with the girls she diverts the energy and passion into raising them into crème de la crème. A major feature of postmodern writing is the art of playing with the theme of loneliness, despair and helplessness that modernist writing is associated with. The purpose of the novel is not plain existentialist as most modernist novels are known to be. The focus is a mixture of characterization and existentialism. Leading modernists argue that characterization should be the focus of a proper novel and that character creating should be done through the use stream of consciousness. In this novel, the existential nature of Miss Jean Brodie herself is parodied. Miss Jean Brodie‘s existentialist view is for art and beauty but the girls did not ultimately become what she might have hoped for. None of the girls turned out to be the ―crème de la crème‖ and none even ends as a lover of art. The novel also engages the day-to-day challenges of stereotyped educational system which Miss Jean Brodie defies to form a curriculum of her own. She teaches the girls about her experiences and etiquette. She is rarely seen teaching them any orthodox class subject. She only keeps the subject titles on the class room board in case the headmistress or other teachers in the school comes along. The difference in view of the headmistress and Miss Jean Brodie was highlighted but rather in a pseudo-confrontational manner. The headmistress and Miss Brodie were never seen arguing in the novel. The confrontations were only talked about. This difference in opinion is played with by Muriel Sparks as a form of mockery of the system. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie also highlights the experience of people living in the ghetto as Miss Brodie takes the girls on a walk; but much attention was never given to why they are the way they are except for the fact that the period was the time after the war. In conclusion, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie embodies postmodernist attributes that gives the novel a deeper understanding. Reading the novel from a postmodernist standpoint gives a further insight into the background of the novel and the circumstances that could have informed the writing.
 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie has been studied as a novel that focuses on fascism. Her desire to control the lives of the Brodie set at an impressionable age of ten makes Jean Brodie discard the curriculum and mold the girls‘ lives in a way that destroys their individual personality and worldview. As a postmodernist novel, it draws the reader‘s attention to the importance of education in the development of young minds.

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