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Is the direct method of characterization used with Miss Meadows in the "The Singing...

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mamoooss | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 3, 2013 at 1:03 PM via web

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Is the direct method of characterization used with Miss Meadows in the "The Singing Lesson" by Katherine Mansfield??

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:53 PM (Answer #1)

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The direct method of characterization is used by the narrator to describe a character with explicit detail. This means that the character's physical characteristics will be clearly explained without the reader having to make inferences.

In Katherine Mansfield's "The Singing Lesson", Miss Meadows is characterized both directly and indirectly. The evidence of direct characterization occurs at the very beginning when we find that, after having read Basil's cruel letter, Miss Meadows ran through the hallways of her school, and into the classroom, quite heart broken and

in cap and gown and carrying a little baton

We are also told that Miss Meadows is thirty, and that her face shows nothing but grimace.

However, that is the extent to which Mansfield characterizes Miss Meadows directly. The purpose of the author is to contrast Miss Meadows with her element; the "bobbing, pink faces" of the student contrast with her pale and cold misery. The "honey colored" hair of the "sweet" but fake Science teacher contrasts with Miss Meadow's true need for human sincerity after having experienced the shock of Basil. Mansfield even contrasts Miss Meadows with Basil, pointing out that he is handsome, and younger than Miss Meadows (he is 25) and that their engagement was seen as unbelievable.

All of these ways to speak of Miss Meadows indicate the use of indirect characterization; much is left for the readers to wonder. Why would Mansfield use the words

It had been a miracle, simply a miracle, to hear him say, as they walked home from church that very dark night, "You know, somehow or other, I've got fond of you."

Was Miss Meadows unattractive? Did she look too old for Basil? Why was the Science mistress so surprised to learn about Miss Meadows's engagement? All of these questions are left unanswered so that the readers can make an inference without having too many details.

Therefore, the story uses more indirect characterization in the form of contrasting the main character against others, and against her surroundings.

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