The Singing lesson(short story)
Many a strand has been pieced together in telling the plot of The singing lesson. Among them most prominent is feminine sensibility of Miss Meadows who is unquestionably a representative of working women of early twentieth century English society. Katherine Mansfield appears to have feminist inclination in her short stories that develop a women’s point of view.
In this story we find Miss Meadows, a spinster, engaged as a music teacher at a girl’s school. In fact, the school is shown as the place of action of the story. A particular singing lesson is suggestive of the inner complications of the protagonist and it reveals how emotional aspect of the character gets entangled with her professional life. The writer serves well to lay bare her twin purpose; both the momentary crisis of the central character and her way of socialization with her colleagues are tuned together.
What we have come to know about Miss Meadow is a sudden split in her relationship with her fiance and consequently a tenacity develops in Miss Meadows not to publicize her personal matter. She appears a perfect specimen of contemporary spinster of nerves. It is well fictionalized how an ordinary woman fears the social stigmatization. In those days women above the age of marriage felt emotionally overwrought. It is natural enough that Miss Meadows does have the same mental predicament. Those women sustained themselves financially either as governess or teaching profession.
Through the character of Miss Meadows the writer conveys the desperate attempt on her part not to reveal even the inkling of her mental turmoil. The story sheds light on her repressed emotional core and simultaneously her external appearance speaks volumes of her unspoken agony. That day Miss Meadows personal communication with the science teacher is rather sharp and offhanded: “it is rather sharp’”
We realize to what extent she is grim and morose in temperament. It happens everywhere when we feel anguished we always avoid the company of others. The writer uses incidentally the symbol of chrysanthemum used as token of exchanging best wishes between two persons. We see how Miss Meadows artfully avoids the girl who everyday wishes her giving a yellow chrysanthemum:
But this morning, instead of taking it up, instead of tucking it into her belt while she leant over Mary and said, “Thank you, Mary. How very nice!”
Thus we find in Miss Meadows changes in her countenance and gesture. It is not actually her habitual self. It is evident how lonely women in those times carry about professional life. They maintain aloofness from their compatriots at the workplace. The character of Miss Meadows is a living document of such tormented, lonely middle class working woman of early twentieth century.