'Creme de la creme' was the term used by Miss Jean Brodie in Muriel Spark's 1961 novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, to refer to her favoured group of pupils, also known as the 'Brodie Set'. Brodie, a teacher at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, was of the opinion that she was in the business of 'putting old heads on young shoulders,' and the Brodie Set were those who conformed to this principle best.
Set predominantly in 1930s Edinburgh, the novel focussed on the six girls who comprised the Brodie Set and Brodie herself, who attempted to inculcate them — along with their classmates — with the fascist doctrines that she supported. Despite Brodie's fascistic attitude, and the indelible mark that it inevitably left on them, the girls retained their own characters (Spark describes how each member of the set wears their hat, which is an indication of their character).
Mary MacGregor is frequently referred to as the scapegoat of the group. Coupled with her subsequent death in a fire, Mary's character can be interpreted as an allegory for 1930s European Jewry. Despite being perceived as 'the perfect girl', Monica Douglas had a vicious temper and had a propensity to lash out in anger. Both Rose Stanley and Jenny Gray were inquisitive by nature; Rose was the blonde, sexy one and Jenny the pretty, theatrical one. Eunice Gardner fulfilled the role of the 'sporty' member of the set. The final character, Sandy Stranger, perhaps resembled Brodie most closely, yet was her ultimate betrayer. This betrayal came not only in the form of the exposure of Brodie's fascist proclivities, but also that Brodie's belief that she was 'in her prime,' was a fallacy. This emotional betrayal came in the form of Sandy conducting an affair with art teacher Teddy Lloyd, Brodie's secret object of desire. On leaving school, Sandy joined a convent, an indication, perhaps, of the degree to which she was reliant on structure and hierarchy, which was what being a member of the 'creme de la creme' offered her.