The Singing Lesson – question answers -use of symbol to depict the Emotional State of Miss Meadows


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The Singing Lesson – symbols used to depict Miss Meadows’ emotional state

Question : How has Katherine Mansfield used symbols to depict Miss Meadows’ emotional state in the story “The Singing Lesson’.

Answer: Katherine Mansfield is known for her evocative  use of images and symbols in her short stories. Her use of images and symbols was sharp, suggestive and new with seeming forced or written to some preconceived formula. 
       In ” The Singing Lesson “, the story revolves around Miss Meadows‘ changing moods during a singing lesson in her classroom. The story begins with the symbolic setting of cold corridors, which lead Miss Meadows down to the music hall. The cold corridors here are symbolic of the protagonist ‘s  coldness and despair that is – 
” buried deep in her heart like a wicked knife”. 
  The imagery of the knife, cold and sharp suggests death or immense pain.
       Some of the other symbols are – 


   Miss Meadows physical description is not given in the story except that she wore a cap, a gown and carried a little baton in her hand. The baton is the symbol of her power, authority and control with which she asks the girls to song accordingly. She used the baton and  “gave two sharp taps with her baton for silence.” 

Songs : 

   Miss Meadows’ choice of songs and their lyrics are symbolic of her mood and feelings. She allows her inner turmoil to influence not only her song choices but the interpretation of the song, a lament.

      She picked up a lament – as the first song. The song was symbolic of her dejected inner self and reflected her low spirits. Its lyrics that roses of pleasure fade quickly and autumn soon changes into winter are reflective of her weakening relationship with her fiance – Basil.

 The second song which she chooses after reading Basil’s telegram is symbolic of her happiness. This congratulating song is a reflection of her transformation from despair to delight. She joyfully broke off –


    She even sang along with the girls which symbolise her return to happiness in voice ”  full, deep, glowing with expressions”.

Chrysanthemum : 

    The chrysanthemum flower is regarded as symbol of optimism and joy. It is an autumn flower and seen as a symbol of sun. Hence when Miss Meadows filled!with coldness and despair walked down to the music hall, she could not appreciate it and thus ignored it.

        Towards the end of the story, when she returned to her class with a good mood that Basil was ready to marry her, she picked up the chrysanthemum herself

“to hide her smile “ with the flower. She was filled with happiness and sunshine, she picked up the joy symbolising flower.


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