ISC “The Singing Lesson” workbook Answers: Aptness of Title


The Singing Lesson : The aptness of Title

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Question : How appropriate is the title of the short story, “The Singing Lesson” ?

Answer: The title”The Singing Lesson ” is apt and suggestive. In fact, the title has two connotations –

  1. The activity of teaching music to the student and
  2. The lesson that is singing itself, as if it were alive. Literally, the story is about a music teacher, Miss Meadows who is a music teacher in a girls’ school.

       Therefore, music is central idea of the story. Miss Meadows, a spinster music teacher, experiences harrowing gloom and unspoken mental anguish due to a split in her relationship with her fiance ‘Basil’.

      As the opening line of the story suggests –
“With despair – cold, sharp despair – buried deep in her heart like a wicked knife …….”
   The line suggests that Miss Meadows was filled with despair,while she was going to the music hall to take class.

    The story revolves around the particular singing lesson class and the protagonist’s activity in the class shows the changes in human behaviour brought by particular events of life.

      Miss Meadows picks up “A Lament” for the class’  first song. The lyrics of the song are symbolic of her heartbroken, torn self caused by her fiance’s letter telling her that he would not be able to marry her. Thus she allowed her troubled state to influence the choice of song for her class. The song’s “every note was a sigh, a sob, a groan of awful mournfulness” which truly reflects Miss Meadows inner turmoil.

     She instructs her students not to feel any emotion while singing and as a result, their voices are lifeless.

    She even ignores the yellow chrysanthemum given to her by her student Mary Beazley.  As a reflection of her mood, the music continues to trod along and the students instinctively pick up on Miss Meadows’ emotions to become angry and afraid.

      In the story”The  Singing Lesson ” the music serves as Miss Meadows’ inner emotional outlet without having disclosed her private thoughts. The lesson she teaches her students is like an iced fragment that transmits the impression of a certain moment, like an impressionist painting. A class of singing lesson reflects the inner consciousness of Miss Meadows as if  it were a monologue expressing the mental anguish and utter torment of her soul.

     While the class was in progress, Miss Meadows got a telegram from Basil informing her that the letter was a mistake; now he was able to marry her –
“Pay no attention to letter , must have been mad, bought hat -stand today – Basil.”

  On getting the good news over the telegram she gets carried away by rosy hopes of life. Now she is no longer melancholic and hopeless.

    She returns to her classroom and changes the topic of the lesson. Her choice of music undergoes a change in conformity with her changed mood. Now she urges the girls to put in emotion in full throated ease in her characteristic  manner. She sings a happier song, allowing her own voice to sing loudest, symbolising her return to happiness.

   Thus, the music lesson itself appears if it were alive. Its lyrics and style of singing change with the situation. Sometimes, life follows the music and at other times, music is played according to life.

   In this story, the latter seems to be applicable and thus makes the title appropriate.

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