Discuss the ways in which passing and the prime present character who buck societal convention and the sequences there of. In the two novel the prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Passing by Muriel Spark and Nella Larsen, respectively connect with some social unconventional characters which is control over someone, selfishness, betray to satisfy own desires and construction of race.
In 1929, Larsen wrote passing, a novel that portrays the physiological-social problem trough “passing” a phenomenon which describes light skinned African American’s choice to live in the society as white for social status or economic reasons without revealing her true racial identity, which made some conflict of racial and cultural loyalty to accept the identity of two friends, Irene Westover and Clare Kendry, to lives in a segregated society.
Also, Larsen brings the problems that faces some African American’s in the Harlem Renaissance. On the other hand, in 1961 Muriel Spark wrote the prime of jean Brodie, a novel that shows a dominating character of a fascinating junior schoolmistress Miss Brodie and her influence on the pupils of Marcia Blaine School in Edinburgh in 1930s. Miss Brodie ignores the curriculum and rather teaches “her girls” her own romanticized, fantasist view of history, the arts and the world in general which shows unconventional character.
However, in the prime of jean Brodie doesn’t mention any racial conflict over the set in 1930s Edinburgh rather than shows Miss Brodie’s ideology of that time between World Warl and war I about Italian Renaissance ,arts and religion. Moreover, this two novels brings up some unconventional characters to show those social and psychological problems and proves that the consequences of those characters were end up awfully, for instance, money seeking and selfish Clare Kendry’s tragedy of death and dominated Miss Brodie betrayed by” her girl” sandy.
The two main characters of passing is Irene Westover, an upper middle class light skinned black women, who partially” passes” her racial identification as white in public places for example the time she wants a taxi, a theater tickets, living in Harlem society and like to control her family, and maintain social circles, and Clare Kendry, a wealthy blonde and pale-skinned beautiful but selfish women who spent many years “passing” and wishes to return to her cultural roots.
Additionally, in the prime of jean Brodie’s two the main character is Miss Brodie who is in her prime ignores the curriculum and teaches her pupil about her own romanticized, fantasist view of history, the arts and the world in general. And sandy Stranger, notorious for her “small, almost non-existent, eyes” and famous for her vowel sounds is one of the girl from “the Brodie set” who latter betrayed with Miss Brodie for her retirement because she realized that Miss Brodie sabotaging her students through her eccentric teaching method, and she became sin and famous for writing a psychological book.
Clare Kendry and Sandy is the character who both suffer at their childhood. Clare kendry spend her childhood as poor, being abused by alcoholic father Bob Kendry, and after her father’s death she was refused from her aunt, and experienced racial hatred from aunt. All of those early home ent affects her behavior and mental desire of security, economical safety which probably force her to “passing” her own identity.
On the other hand, Sandy Stranger was affected by her school teacher Miss Brodie who influence her mental position in many ways from being different from other child in school. For example, she was more curious about sexual intercourse, she like to write imaginary character at the age of 10, which is as not normal behavior for 10 years old girl. As headmistress Miss Mackay had given the “Brodie set” a name which is “in scorn”.
Actually all of the six girls in the Brodie set was mentally influenced in their childhood by Miss Brodie’s ccentric and unconventional teaching method as she used to teach them about beauty, love affairs, arts, and politics rather than following curriculum of English grammar, science when they were at 12 years old age, but Sandy is highlighted because she was the one who struggle and realize Miss Brodie’s unconventional teaching method. Therefore, we can say that this two novel, first of all, highlighted the problem of socially unconventional behavior of elder people to the child which responsible to grow up some socially unacceptable personality in the society.
However, both of their character end up with some sort of realization of what really they want in their life, but the result was awful for Clare Kendry which end up with her death. However, some of their behavior was not socially accepted. For example, Clare kendry who married to white John Bellow for getting economical status by hiding her own racial identity to her husband, whereas John was racism black bigot. Clare got what she wanted, regardless of the cost to herself or others.
While telling Irene about her experience with passing, Clare said that “it’s such a frightfully easy to do. If one’s the type, all that’s needed is a little nerve” (25) She further mentioned about money that everybody wants, “just a little more money, even the people who have it” (190). All of those obsession about economic support indicated that she was ungenerous and selfish. Even if when Irene gave her suggestion to go back from Harlem for her daughter, Clare shows careless attitude towards her baby.
Later in the novel however she changed her tone and wanted to join social circle of where Irene living with knowing that if she were to be caught, she would be in real trouble, she would lose her daughter Margery, her marriage, and all the physical comforts she gain from passing because his husband Bellow is an extreme racist. She realize that Irene’s life is perfect and happy so, she wanted to come back to her own racial identity, but finally when she caught by her husband at one of Irene’s black friend’s home in a tea party, she fall from the window from up to the 16th flour.
Her mystery death didn’t answer if she did suicide or Irene pushes her from the window. Moreover, Sandy Stranger from the prime of jean Brodie realizes in her adulthood that her childhood was full of struggle because of Miss Brodie, and betrayed with Miss Brodie by telling her headmistress everything about Miss Brodie did to influence girls, so that Miss Brodie could not build anymore “Brodie set” like them. On the other hand, Irene from “Passing” brings up the most important issues in this novel which is challenges and struggle of being African American’s living in the time of Harlem Renascence.
She preferred to live in her own identity, and strives for stability and security. That instability comes from the lack of mistreatment and racism of African American’s in the society at the time of Harlem renascence. In the beginning of the novel her character seems judgmental about Clare’s “Passing”, she describe Clare as unpredictable ,an aggressive, dangerous and “Catlike”, and she describe “catlike” by saying “sometimes she was hard without feeling at all; sometimes she was affectionate and rashly impulsive” (173). Also, Irene seems jealous, and wanted what Clare had, success, carefree, wildness, but not at the price of social gossip.
She doesn’t love her husband Brain, a Negro surgeon, but wanted to keep their relationship because of social status. She embraces the white domestic ideology for instance, She hosts tea parties; she doesn’t speak to her Negro servants. Those attitude indicate her confusion of properly accepting her identification as AfricanAmerican. Also, she wanted to keep her power over her family, thus she denied Brian to move to Brazil, because she thought there is no problem in the Harlem even if when the discussion arise about her son having ‘queer” problem in school she suggested to have him change school.
Moreover, later in the novel, she doesn’t want to accept Clare to joining her social circle and perhaps, from taking place in black society because Irene conclude that Clare and Brian are having an affair. Although it doesn’t define anywhere in the novel clearly about Clare and brain were in affair, it was Irene who thought that way. However, Larsen doesn’t mention if Irene pushes Clare from the window or not, but her aggressive behavior toward Clare made me think it could be passible.
So, we can conclude her perplexing, insecure attitude also as unconventional in a way of her desire to control over her family, the degree of obsession to get success and security and jealousy, and the consequences of thereof is losing her humanity because she felt secure after her childhood friends death. Additionally, Miss Brodie from ‘the prime of Miss Jean Brodie brings an important issue in the society that how teachers could play an important role to change student’s perception by influence them.
Although in our society teachers are responsible for build a positive human being through deliver vast knowledge, Miss Brodie did something opposite. She instructed her students not in accordance with authorized curriculum but her own interest about Benito Mussolini, arts, religion, and love affair. At the age of 12, her chosen set of six girls heard about her first love , who killed in world war I, they learn about” Art and religion first; then philosophy; lastly science”(24).
She teaches the methods of cleaning the skin with cream and witch-hazel, her love life to “those who considered the Bible to be untrue”. She influence them with her over romanticized think of view. The six girls was known by Miss Brodie’s pupil to others, and were different from other students because they know a lot of irrelevant things than others. They all maintain a secret life by not telling others about what Miss Brodie teaches them. Miss Mackey, headmistress, wanted to fire Miss Brodie but wasn’t successful until she got any evidence.
Later in the novel, Sandy stranger when find herself struggling to find her prime and realizes inappropriate curriculum of Miss Jean Brodie, told Miss Mackey everything. Results brings Miss Brodie to retire from school. Miss Brodie never knew who betrayed with her. All of her teaching method was inappropriate. In conclusion, in “passing “Larsen portrays social problem in the time of 1929 which is racial discrimination. And in “The prime of jean Brodie “Spark try to portray another unconventional problem which is domination.