Muriel Spark by Norman Page (auth.)

By Norman Page (auth.)

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Sample text

In the same way, some of the characters - the unscrupulous pseudo-priest Father Socket, for example, or Dr Mike Garland, clairvoyant, homosexual and petty criminal - seem, even in their Dickensian or Waugh-like names, to draw attention to their own fictionality. As usual with Muriel Spark, however, discussions of plot and character rarely take one to the heart of the novel, the real interest of which lies in its unobtrusively hinted themes and ideas. In all the lengthy character list two men emerge as having more than individual and local interest, and moreover as having a suggestive if problematic relationship to each other: Patrick Seton, spiritualistic medium and confidence trickster, and Ronald Bridges, graphologist and epileptic.

Confident of her ability to outwit the headmistress's machinations, Miss Brodie tells her girls "'I do not think ever to be betrayed"' (p. 39), but later, 'shrivelled and betrayed' (p. 56), she expresses - ironically enough, to Sandy, whom she does not suspect- her puzzlement: ' ... nobody could prove what was between Gordon Lowther and myself. It was never proved. It was not on those grounds that I was betrayed. I should like to know who betrayed me. It is incredible that it should have been one of my own girls.

These reminders of what the future holds in store for some of the characters endows their trivial acts with a kind of solemnity: the commonplace Nicholas takes on a profound seriousness when we learn that, after a revelation that leads to his conversion, he will become a monk and suffer a martyr's death in Haiti, just as Sandy the schoolgirl in the earlier novel is redeemed from banality by the juxtaposed image of the older Sandy, a nun clutching the grille that excludes her from the world. Similarly, the bomb in the garden that explodes near the end of the book has been 'promised' from an early stage.

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