ISC Echoes ‘The Singing Lesson ” question and answers:The point of Grief affects everyone


The Singing Lesson: by Katherine Mansfield

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Question  : Katherine Mansfield through “The Singing Lesson” reveals that the point of grief affects everyone and not just the person directly involved. Discuss.

Answer : “The Singing Lesson” written by Katherine Mansfield, reveals the powerful influence of grief over each and every person – directly or indirectly involved.

      Miss Meadows, the protagonist of the story was filled with grief, pain, despair and agony on reading her fiance’s letter calling off their wedding.
 “With despair – cold, sharp despair – buried deep in her heart like a wicked knife…..”
    Miss Meadows came to school in a troublesome mood contrasting the happy and joyous mood of the girls.
     The chirping and bubbling of young girls filled the “gleeful excitement” and happiness in the atmosphere. On the other hand the outer cold corridor reflects the inner coldness and indifference of Miss Meadows towards the happiness of little girls.

     Mary Beazley, her favourite student as a part of her daily ritual, offered   Miss Meadows a yellow Chrysanthemum but Miss Meadows was too frustrated and anguished to accept it, but she ignored it and asked her students to begin at page fourteen “A Lament”. Mary became disheartened and shocked.

     Feeling tormented and heart broken Miss Meadows chose a tragic song for the singing lesson.
” Every note was a sigh, a sob, a groan of awful mournfulness.”
        With the song, Miss Meadows recalled the words written on the letter. Her feeling of pain, agony and hopelessness became stronger with every line of the song.  At the same time,the girls’ “gleeful excitement”  had vanished into thin air.

         Miss Meadows’ strange and stony voice made the young girls to feel “positively frightened”. Miss Meadows then asked the girls to infuse their song with as much expression as they could.

         Her broken engagement tortured her deep inside her heart, this pain was reflected when she sang a line of the song. She sounded so awful to Mary that it ” wriggled her spine “.

      While she was instructing the girls to sing the song with expression, her inner self was preoccupied with Basil’s letter. The fact that the idea of settling down filled Basil with ” disgust ” made her sad.

    Some younger girls even began to cry when Miss Meadows asked them to repeat and add more expression to the song.

 She was then called up by the headmistress, Miss Wyatt. When Miss Meadows left for Miss Wyatt’s  room, the children ” were too subdued to do anything else.”

     Miss Meadows then received a telegram from Basil saying –
“Pay no attention to letter, must have been mad, bought hat – stand to day – Basil.”

    After reading the telegram she became ecstatic as if she were
” on the wings of hope, of love and of joy.”
           Miss Meadows sped back to the music hall in a happy and gleeful mood. It was then that she picked up the yellow chrysanthemum and she held it “to her lips to hide her smile.”

      This transformation of Miss Meadows, from despair to delight affected the girls too. Her change in mood reflects in her choice of song – she then asked the girls to sing a happy dong from “page thirty two”. 

   She not only asked the girls to be cheerful, but herself sang with a voice – “full , deep, glowing with expression.” 

    Thus Miss Meadows’ sadness and happiness not only influenced her but also her students. 


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