The Singing Lesson Question and Answer : inner turmoil of Miss Meadows


The Singing Lesson  : inner Turmoil of Miss Meadows

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Question : Katherine Mansfield has successfully depicted the inner turmoil of Miss Meadows in the story “The Singing Lesson”. Discuss.

Answer : In ‘The Singing Lesson’, Katherine Mansfield has successfully depicted the inner turmoil of Miss Meadows.

     In the story the protagonist Miss Meadows is deeply hurt and saddened by the letter of her fiance which indicated her broken engagement. Although she was very much disturbed but she tried hard to not to show her emotions and internal struggle in public. But all her efforts regarding this went in vain, she unconsciously revealed herself through her encounter with the Science Mistress and her students.

       Her gesture and body language told enough about her despair and pain as – ” with despair – cold,sharp despair – buried deep in her heart like a wicked knife….”

     Although she looked calm from outside but the pain inside her heart is acute, sharp and cold like a knife. The pain caused by her broken relationship anguished her deeply. The coldness of her inner self made the surrounding atmosphere icy cold in that autumn morning.

        Her internal  agitation is exposed when the Science Mistress wished her good morning. She hated the Science Mistress for her charm, beauty and fake sweetness. Her resentful reply exposed her turbulent emotional state of mind.

           When Miss Meadows reached the music hall, she was filled with anguish. She “gave two sharp taps with her baton for silence.”

      Her mannerism told the girls that she was upset. She was quite indifferent towards the happiness of young girls. She remained apathetic to Mary Beazley, who used to greet her with a beautiful chrysanthemum. At that moment her mind was preoccupied in the letter “that I am not a marrying  man and the idea of settling down fills me with nothing but – ” 

      Miss Meadows ignored Mary Beazely and she did not thanked her but coldly asked the girls to open page fourteen to sing ‘ A Lament’.

          Her choice of song clearly showed her sadness and inner turmoil. Although Basil loved her but the thought of marrying her filled him with “regret”. Miss Meadows saw he had written ” disgust” first and had crossed it out and wrote, “regret”. If he ever loved her, he would have the decency to make sure she would not be able to read this      ” disgust” towards her.

       She instructed her students to sing without expression and the result was indeed tragic. “Every note was a sigh,a sob, a groan of awful mournfulness.”

      The sadness of the song even deepened the intensity of her gloom.

     Both the music and her turmoil run parallel to each other. She wondered what forced Basil to write such a harsh letter. while she was instructing the girls to sing the song with expression her inner self was preoccupied with Basil’s letter. Miss Meadows was thirty and Basil, twenty five;  their engagement had thus already been a surprise for people. She was not troubled by the fact that Basil did not love her with his full heart. She says – 

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

   What worried her was that, in case, they could not solemnised their marriage, she would have to leave the school and would have to go somewhere away from the Science Mistress to avoid embarrassment.

      Later, to her utter surprise, she got a telegram from Basil informing her that the letter was a mistake and he was ready to marry her. She instantly became happy as if she were “on the wings of hope, of love, of joy”. 

       The song that she chose then reflected her happiness and it was then that she finally picked up the yellow chrysanthemum.


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