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A comparative analysis of strong willed heroines in Jane Austen's Emma and Muriel Spark's Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

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A comparative analysis of strong willed heroines in Jane Austen's Emma and Muriel Spark's Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. In this study I chose to compare the strong willed characters of Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen's Emma, and Muriel Spark's eccentric Edinburgh schoolteacher in the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Understandably the social and historical context of these novels is very different. When Emma was written in eighteenteen-sixteen, workingwomen were often scorned upon - women were expected to quietly pass their time caring for their children and looking after the home. In stark contrast to this, Miss Jean Brodie, which was first published in nineteen-sixty-one tells of a society containing "legions of her kind during the nineteen-thirties... who crowded their war-bereaved spinsterhood with voyages of discovery". Women were much stronger, more equal members of society: "ministers of religion, University professors, doctors, big warehouse owners". The First World War had revolutionised the perception of women. Despite the strong differences in social context, the heroines of both novels are strong-minded characters, who are individual and stand out from the rest of the society in which they live: "Dear Emma was of no feeble character; she was more equal to her situation than most girls would have ...read more.


Emma believes that "a girl of such loveliness as Harriet, has a certainty of being admired and sought after," however, this is untrue. As the novel progresses Emma encourages Harriet to fall in love with Mr. Elton, Mr. Churchill and Mr. Knightley: if it had not been for Emma's intervention Harriet would have been content with Mr. Martin and would not have been continually falling in and out of love, and repeatedly having her heart broken. In a similar way Miss Brodie feels that she is doing her students a great favour through her unusual teaching methods: "Miss Brodie's pupils were vastly informed on a lot of subjects irrelevant to the authorised school curriculum, as the headmistress said, and useless to the school as a school." Through the eyes of the other Junior school teaching staff at least the girls of the Brodie set would have been better of gaining a more appropriate knowledge from the traditional teaching methods. The reader may also presume that at least two of the girls from the Brody group, Monica Douglas and Mary Macgregor did not benefit from being members of the Brodie set: "I never had any hopes of Mary" "Monica...has no spiritual insight, that is why she has a bad temper." ...read more.


"Can you imagine anything nearer perfect beauty than Emma altogether - face and figure? ...She is loveliness itself." " Miss Brodie looked beautiful and fragile" "Lifted her fine dark Roman head with dignity. She had often told the girls that her dead Hugh had admired her head for its Roman appearance." In a literary context the novels are similar in their themes, as both present a female heroine. As the novels progress both portray the exposure of their heroine's faults and also a growth in self knowledge. Both novels contemplate the theme of justice, in Jane Austen's novel the reader is left wondering if it is fair that Emma is left to be hapy and content after the many mistake and wrong doings she had made. Muriel Spark's novel encourages the reader to contemplate the justice of Miss Jean Brodie's betrayal. In conclusion the strong willed heroines in Jane Austen's Emma and Muriel Spark's prime of Miss jean Brodie are very similar. Both are determined to speak of their own opinions even if they are in contradiction to the rest of society. They are both independent. The main difference between the characters is that Emma Woodhouse is respected and looked up to by her fellows, whereas Miss. Brodie is often scorned on. Eleanor Carter 11C ...read more.

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