According to Teresa Bridgeman, author of the article “Thinking Ahead: A Cognitive Approach to Prolepsis,” prolepsis is a narrative technique which requires the construction of a minimal and usually incomplete mental representation which the reader must hold in memory and be prepared to recall at a later point in the reading process. By using this technique, the narrator of the story is omniscient and timeless. As I discovered, prolepsis is far less common in narrative fiction than its counterpart, analepsis, or flashback, but it is obvious that it is Spark’s analytical concept of choice. The main narrative following Mary MacGregor is developed with brief excerpts from her future, allowing the reader to see how she will develop and transform through the influence of their teacher. Throughout the novel, the girls’ various reputations are primarily determined by Miss

Brodie, who identifies their skills and attributes and characterizes them accordingly. Although this book is narrated by an omniscient narrator, there are good reasons to question the narrator’s authority. This enables readers to challenge the narrator’s characterization of one character in particular, Mary Macgregor. Because of the narrator’s use of the technique of prolepsis, we know how and when Mary Macgregor is going to die, and since this knowledge is continually in the back of the reader’s mind, instances in her life seem to foreshadow her death. I am going to read you a passage on page 13 of the novel. After we are told Mary dies at 24, and we hear about her death, now we’re back to her at age 10. The narration jumps around, and what the narrator has done is thrown the reader into a tailspin. The narrator ends sentences by saying “she was clumsy and incompetent” when the rest of the sentence didn’t suggest that whatsoever. Spark is suggesting such things

An instance of foreshadowing occurs in the chemistry classroom after Mary is frightened by magnesium flares shot out of test tubes during a first week experiment. Thus.’ said Mary who later. that we will retain the death scene as a situation model by repeating the image of Mary running backwards and forwards. I thought “What relevance does this have? Why is the narrator continually bringing up Mary’s future death?” And the phrase appears again near the end. Social belonging is a primary human need. The function of the multiple prolepses here is thus to cue a very specific link between Mary's present and future” (135-6). the prolepsis that depicts her death causes readers to view Mary by the narrator’s descriptions of her. The phrase “ran hither and thither” brings readers back to an earlier recollection of her death: (SLIDE) “‘Sandy won’t talk to me. which doesn’t allow the reader to come to their own conclusion of Mary. To the contrary. As . Research suggests that people are more psychologically healthy when part of social groups.” When I first read that. depression. being excluded or isolated can be very emotionally painful and associated with a number of negative effects such as anxiety. ran hither and thither till she died. and shame. when the girl ran hither and thither in the hotel fire and was trapped by it” (136).without giving explanations or reasons. though. The way the narration portrays Mary makes it almost impossible for reader’s to sympathize with her suffering. (SLIDE) Teresa Bridgeman states. This is on the second to last page of the novel. in that hotel fire. and we are again reminded of Mary’s death. we are involved in the narrator’s victimization of Mary. “Spark ensures. Early positive attachments and being integrated into a responsive relationship with one’s peers is clearly necessary for mental health and well being. (SLIDE) This passage is on page 81 in the novel. anger. when we are told that Sandy “heard again from Miss Brodie at the time of Mary Macgregor’s death. As a result.

The repetition of the phrase “ran hither and thither” also provides rhythm to the narrative. as the narrator reiterates when referring to Mary. . if a person knew a girl quite well in high school and later learned that she died in her twenties in a hotel fire. As a result. support and intimacy. almost like a refrain. when referring to Mary. we might see her death as a sad but fitting end . In Brown’s article. Adolescents rely on peers as a basis of comparison for appraising themselves for social and personal worth. “Mary’s behavior when she dies resembles her behavior in the chemistry class. which is evident in Mary. Peter Robert Brown states. even though there is no reason to believe that she would have escaped had she been more intelligent. adolescents who are not accepted typically have problems in identity development and forming a sense of personal worth and self-concept. “Because Mary has already been called stupid by the narrator. the phrase “ran hither and thither” suggests the irrational and thoughtless behavior of one who is unintelligent. .a child ages into adolescence. For example. every time they thought of the girl they would associate her with that fatal fire. Brown explains. he identifies how a pattern concerning the narration of the novel reveals qualities about Mary’s reputation and how Mary is victimized not only by Miss Brodie and her set but also by the narrator and the narrative of the novel: . In an article called “There's Something about Mary: Narrative and Ethics in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” located in the Journal of Narrative Theory. because of their increased reliance on peers for guidance. and her responses to flames suggest a characteristic pattern of behavior” (240). the need for peer group membership develops. In addition. Spark’s use of prolepsis targets the way readers often think about people in real life.” (240). Peer rejection in adolescence is found to have an especially negative impact as compared to at a younger age.

by the narrator’s irony as well as by the unfolding of the plot. the last member of the set. By telling us that Mary’s fame rests on her “being a silent lump. being a victim can be powerful position. this is achieved through the narrator’s and Miss Brodie’s repeated descriptions of her as stupid. “Mary Macgregor. For example. attempts to point out the ability to control others behavior can easily be denounced as merely "blaming the victim".” (10-11). a nobody whom everybody could blame. Spark involves readers in the victimization of Mary and enables them to become aware of that involvement. even negated.Whereas the reputations of the other girls are qualified.” the narrator is verifying specific claims about Mary — that she is a silent lump. (239) Consider a scene in the beginning of the novel where Mary Macgregor is not initially standing with the other girls. with merely two eyes . primarily through guilt. lump-like. This particular type of power can be insidious. Now consider a scene on page ten: Miss Brodie. Before gaining Mary’s response. Through her irony. In this scene. . noticing that Mary is not paying attention. we read. whose fame rested on her being a silent lump. was later famous for being stupid and always to blame. In some instances. the narrator’s description of Mary is reiterated and contributes to . Mary’s reputation seems fixed. . Here. When one can convince others that they are a victim. a nobody whom everybody could blame” (4). the narrator is not describing Mary but her “fame” and the ways in which she is perceived and treated by others. . . but it is also achieved through the prolepsis of her death. asks her what she is looking at. In part. and she is a nobody whom everybody can blame. but she soon joins them: “Along came Mary Macgregor. lumpy. she remains stupid. and blamable. it becomes possible to control others behavior.

As a result. An instance in which Mary is blamed occurs when Miss Brodie discovers a chipped rim of a teacup while spending time with Sandy and Jenny at Mr. Thus far. Mary was here last Sunday with Eunice and they washed up together. “Mary Macgregor must have chipped it. Mary must have chipped it” (94). Lowther’s residence. the narrator is agreeing with the judgments of whichever group among whom Mary is “famous” for being so. and endorsing the judgments of Miss Brodie. the student body. whether that group is the Brodie set. . Through this narrative technique. The ways in which a person’s appearance and manner are sometimes mistaken for personality attributes. the narrator has not yet proved Mary as blamable. “In identifying Mary as stupid. or trying to convince us?” Despite these characterizations. However. they might find themselves among those who identify Mary as stupid and lump-like. Miss Brodie never calls Mary “lump-like.” Miss Brodie does not seem to judge Mary’s appearance negatively at this point. especially among schoolchildren. evaluating her moral worth. . Miss Brodie’s multiple utterances of blaming Mary may cause readers to think “Is she trying to convince herself that Mary is to blame. which signals readers to pay attention to the upcoming process of Mary repeatedly being blamed by Miss Brodie. if readers accept the narrator’s description. the narrator is ethically judging her. is frequent. Mary is characterized as stupid and lump-like. readers are involved. who repeatedly calls Mary stupid” (235). leads readers to think that the narrator’s description of Mary resembles that of a school bully. . which as a result. as mentioned in the previous scene. Brown states. Miss Brodie states. a quality in which Mary is attributed for being famous. or the school in general. In characterizing Mary as lump-like. Mary is victimized and almost unknowingly.labeling Mary as lump-like and stupid.

against me — she is such an exasperating young woman” (135). Sandy considers being kind to Mary. valuing their status with their teacher over being kind to Mary. Sandy asserts her devotion to Miss Brodie and the set by cruelly telling Mary. Through this narration. Miss Brodie and the students see Mary as a thing to be kicked around with impunity. was at least inside Miss Brodie’s category of heroines in the making” (30). and she automatically and initially suspects Mary. Miss Brodie again blames Mary in a letter to Sandy. Only knowledge of her untimely death at twenty-three causes her peers to momentarily regret the way they treated her. “I think first of Mary Macgregor. in her stupidity of mind. and blamable in a more dreadful way than Mary who. Perhaps Mary had nursed a grievance. she becomes terrified: “She was even more frightened then. accusing her for instigating the misconduct begun by others. Miss Brodie is contemplating which girl in her set has betrayed her. The content of the novel’s narrative and the way in which events are related contribute to Mary’s victimization. . This is yet another instance in which why Mary is famous for being blamed. Miss Brodie. and the other students follow suit. One final aspect worth mentioning is the association between the reader’s knowledge of Mary’s death and the guilt the other protagonists experience over their unkind treatment of her throughout their childhood. Mary is ridiculed and scorned by Miss Brodie. by her temptation to be nice to Mary Macgregor. in this case specifically.In the final chapter. Sandy accepts and confirms Mary’s status as a scapegoat. Miss Brodie pushes Mary out of art class. or a person made to bear the blame for others. although officially the faulty one. and be lonely. 243-4). “‘I wouldn’t be walking with you if Jenny was here’” (Brown. Miss Brodie says. An example of this occurs on the girls’ walk through one of the poor districts of Edinburgh. by. but when she hears Miss Brodie’s voice. since by this action she would separate herself. In order to avoid becoming the outsider.

It is her status as a scapegoat that illustrates the way in which she is reduced to such descriptions throughout the novel. It became evident that Spark causes readers to reflect on the narrative and the ways in which ethics and victimization are handled. In addition. Mary dies in a fire in 1943. even if we find their behavior ethically atrocious (245). and her role and function as scapegoat follow from those descriptions. . Thus. she is initially characterized as stupid and lump-like. but the narration and narrative techniques make it difficult for readers to fully sympathize with Mary. Mary is an insider at the same time that she is a scapegoat.As a scapegoat. Mary is both inside and outside of the Brodie set. It is possible that readers may pity Mary. The way Spark writes allows readers to reflect on the role that narrative and narration play in the process of victimization and also on the ways in which readers become involved in the process. at the same time when millions of people were being detained in Nazi death camps. results in questioning one’s evaluation of people in real life situations. just as they may be appalled by the ways in which she is treated. for she can be excluded from the group whenever they see fit. Brown explains. A further study that remains to be conducted is how Mary Macgregor’s victimization relates to the reality of fascist and Nazi racism and oppression. She also causes readers to question one’s own personal ethical response to a narrative. which in turn. Mary’s role and fate in the novel demonstrate the effects of domination and defeat. Mary’s status within the Brodie set is ambiguous. “Since readers unquestioningly accept the narrator’s descriptions of Mary as stupid and lump-like—and since we are given few other characteristics by which we can identify her—we risk joining those who so label her and victimize her. In some ways.

" Journal of Narrative Theory 36. . New York: Harper Perennial. Spark. Muriel. and she is repeatedly narrated in situations that determine and define her character within these boundaries.A person’s moral worth is not dependant on their intelligence. Works Cited Bridgeman.2 (2006). 1994. "'There's Something about Mary:' Narrative and Ethics in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. because of Miss Brodie’s authority and power.2 (2005). The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Peter Robert. “Thinking Ahead: A Cognitive Approach to Prolepsis. 125-159. However. Teresa. 228-253. 13. Brown. Mary’s intellectual weaknesses are interpreted as failures. and Mary’s intelligence (or lack of) should be irrelevant.” Ohio State University Press: Narrative.

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