ISC Echoes question and Answer of “The Singing Lesson” : The Role of Music


‘The Singing Lesson : the role of music

                                      Image source: Google

Question : What role does music played in the short story, ‘The Singing Lesson’ by Katherine Mansfield.

Answer:  Music is the central theme of Katherine Mansfield’s “The Singing Lesson”. The main protagonist – Miss Meadows is a music teacher in a girl’s school, her love for music is reflected throughout the story.

            Having received a letter from her fiance, stating that their engagement was off, Miss Meadows enters in her music class with great despair, pain and sadness. She allowed her inner turmoil to influence her choice of song while she was teaching. She picks up ‘A lament’ as the first song. She instructed her students to ” sing it” “without expression”.The song was so mournful that ” The willow trees outside ” “lost half their leaves”.

        The environment responded to the sad music. Even the students ” began to feel positively frightened. “

      Then as melancholy in Miss Meadows mind rises, she asks her students to “take it with expression”with making  “Drear sound as if a cold wind were blowing through it.”

       As a reflection of the teacher’s mood the music becomes successively depressing. The music and her turmoil run parallel to each other.

     She wondered if their engagement were off, then she would have never be able to “face the Science Mistress or the girls after it got known”. People had already been surprised enough at her engagement with a man five years younger to her. She was in disgrace.

       Beckoning the girls with her baton, the music sped up. The students instinctively picked up the mood of their teacher as a result.

” The older girls were crimson; some of tje younger ones began to cry.”

    But Miss Meadows stood before them with her mind miles away begging Basil to let her remain in his life.

 “I don’t mind how much it is. Love me as little as you like”.

       She was not concerned by how much or little Basil loved her. She was desperate to get married to him for honour and grace and position in society.

      The music serves as an emotional outlet for Miss Meadows’ without her divulging her private thoughts.

         After the receipt ot Basil’s telegram, Miss Meadows is “on the wings of hope; of love, of joy”and the song she chooses is a happy one. The music is now “warm, joyful and eager”.

      Music sets the mood of the story. The despair increases in intensity and then begins to fade with ” voices began to die,to fade, to whisper ….to vanish …..”

       Music stops, the door opens and the mistress’s messenger enters. After a brief interlude, the mood changes and music becomes “warm, joyful and eager”.

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