About the Author Kathleen Mansfield Murry (14 October 1888 – 9 January 1923) was a prominent modernist writer of short fiction from New Zealand who wrote under the pen name of Katherine Mansfield.
At the age of 14 she went to London to study at Queen’s College. During the three years of studies she often wrote short stories for the college journal. As she was dissatisfied with the dull and leisured life of her family. She went to London again in 1908 and determined on writing as her career. Since then she lively mostly in England. In 1923 she died of tuberculosis in France. During her short 35 years of life, she had written some poems, literature comment, and also translated the Russian writer Anton Chekhov’s works, but what really established her fame as a prominent writer were her short stories.
Style Mansfield’s short stories showed great ingenuity. She drew materials from her own experience, chose trifles as her subjects. Her theme was confined but significant to life: the growth and self-consciousness of the female; the relation between men and women; children’s innocence and the cruelty of the reality. She pursued high writing techniques, the four of which were: description of details; more atmosphere than plot and the perfect blend of feeling and setting; interior monologue; symbol. Her language was written in a prose style spiced with poetic flavour.
Summary The Singing Lesson was a short story that explained how Miss Meadow’s thought disrupted her teaching to her class in the music hall. Miss Meadow showed hatred for the Science Mistress and expressed herself in a negative way. This was due to a letter she had received. The letter said that the guy she was marrying didn’t love her. This was on her mind the whole day until she received a telegram saying that she needs not to pay attention to the letter that was written earlier. Her fiancé explains how he must have been mad when he wrote the letter. After finding out this news, She no longer acts mad and instead shows her cheery side.
Questions and discussion What is the story about?
At first upon reading this short story you might think that it is describing a singing lesson in a music hall. That’s because it actually is. One idea that is achieved by reading The Singing Lesson, is that a teacher’s personal life problems and issues can affect other aspects of her life, including how she acts towards others. Not only can she be affected but others as well.
Miss Meadow is the teacher of the singing lesson. She is expressed as being despairing and depressed all because of a letter she had received from her fiancé, the person she is suppose to be marrying. While the girls around her in the hall are fluttery an lively, it can be seen that the way she acts compared to them is more sad and depressed. This is an example of contrast. By purposely implementing this contrast between characters, Katherine Mansfield is showing Miss Meadow as a symbol of isolation and despair. Along with the contrast of moods, there is also a contrast of discourse, which shows the difference in traits that human beings have. Miss Meadow is bitter and has hatred, while the Science Mistress is a symbol of artificiality.
The setting shows that Miss Meadow’s state of mind could be mournful, which would be represented by the music hall. The song with which she chooses to sing illustrates that she is not in the best of moods, while later in the story at the end, she chooses to sing a song more blissful.
How does the external events change Miss Meadows’ mood and behavior?
You can tell the way in which the class acts and the motioning Miss Meadow makes that she is disrupted by a thought of something. The thought affects the way in which she is teaching. Basically The Singing Lesson is about how the manner in which moods change due to external events. This is obvious when she receives the telegram from her fiancé. The contents of the letter are considered to be heartbreaking to the point where it has the power to influence the mood not only Miss Meadow but everyone in the music hall as well.
This short story reveals how Katherine Mansfield feels about human grief on everyone not just the person doing the grieving. Emphasis on impressionism can be seen, because we perceive that Miss Meadow is sad or grieving over something that had happened. In a way this piece could be fragmented because it goes from narrator to having actual quotes from the period in which it takes place.
Point of view The story is told from limited third person point of view. We see everything through the eyes of Miss Meadows, but she is not the narrator. We are limited to her thoughts, feelings, perceptions, etc.,
Stream of consciousness This story also shows a lot of stream of consciousness, because it shows Miss Meadows thoughts with which she feels Compare the use of soc in this story and Miss Brill