Katherine Mansfield

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How does Katherine Mansfield use symbols and imagery to depict Miss Meadows's emotional state throughout the story "The Singing Lesson"?

Mansfield uses symbols and imagery to depict Miss Meadows's emotions, contrasting dreary winter cold with colorful autumn excitement and summer warmth. She contrasts flowers versus fading leave and cold and rain versus sunshine to depict moods. The rose Basil wears and Mary's chrysanthemum symbolize hope. Her rejection and acceptance of the chrysanthemum parallel her mood shift. The song notes the roses of pleasure fade “too fast" but after the telegram, she emphasizes positive flower imagery in the song.

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Katherine Mansfield use symbols and imagery to depict Miss Meadows's changing mood, contrasting the approaching dreary cold of winter with the colorful excitement of autumn and flowery warmth of summer. She uses flowers versus fading leaves and cold and rain versus sunshine to depict how Miss Meadows feels. Fading or dying flowers and leaves depict despair, in contrast to the rose in Basil's lapel, the chrysanthemum Mary gives her and "flowers o'erladen" in the song that all symbolize love and hope.

The rejection and acceptance of the chrysanthemum parallel Miss Meadows’s mood. Mary hands her “a beautiful yellow chrysanthemum,” the imagery recalls summer and optimism, but Miss Meadows rejects it. Miss Meadows is in despair over her lost love, so she “totally ignored the chrysanthemum.”

Miss Meadows recalls her last meeting with her fiancé, Basil. His name and the rose he wears in his buttonhole symbolize the fragility of their love. Both the herb basil and the rose can wither if not nurtured properly.

Miss Meadows's choice of song is also a symbol of her dark feelings. She selects “A Lament,” which is “tragic,” with every note "a sigh, a sob, a groan of awful mournfulness,” as she mourns her lost love. The girls sing with “young, mournful voices.”

The willow trees "had lost half their leaves,” at the end of autumn on the cusp of winter, which is drab and colorless. The last remaining leaves “wriggled like fishes caught on a line." Basil says “I am not a marrying man." He does not want to be "caught," trapped in marriage forever.

The words of the song parallel Miss Meadows’s love that has faded away and died, while outside the windows, the rain enhances her gloomy mood, as the almost bare willows whisper "I do not love you," echoing Basil’s words.

After she receives the telegram, Miss Meadows's mood changes and she rushes back to the music hall "on the wings of hope, of love, of joy," emphasizing the positive flower imagery in the song.

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Katherine Mansfield mainly uses the motif of flowers throughout the story, and winter and coldness play a secondary role. When Miss Meadows thinks she has been jilted, she pays no attention to the real flower that has been placed before her: the yellow chrysanthemum that is a customary token of appreciation from her students. The fact that she ignores this flower horrifies the girl who has brought it. This flower symbolizes her relationship with her students.

At the end, after receiving the telegram, she picks up the chrysanthemum and uses it to hide her smile. Contrasted to this flower is the rose that is mentioned in the song, which reminds her of her fiancé; it symbolizes their courtship as well as his vanity. This flower is also linked to a smile.

The cold, wintry aspect of the story symbolizes the environment of the school, which has no emotional value to Miss Meadows, as well as what she thinks is a broken engagement....

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The Science Mistress says to her, "You look fro-zen," perceptively noting her emotional state. Her despair is called "cold," and the song lyrics include "winter drear."

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Symbols and imagery are main components of how the short story, "The Singing Lesson" by Katherine Mansfield is expressed. The story begins by using the imagery of a knife buried in Miss Meadow's heart to begin to convey Miss Meadow's feelings of heartbreak.

The day is particularly cold, and the science teacher, who is used to Miss Meadows being a pleasant person to interact with, sees the coldness of the air reflected in the coldness of Miss Meadows's response to her.

Upon reaching her classroom, Miss Meadows has her class sing a heartbreaking song, which the girls respond to with shame and sadness while they are also scared and saddened by the unpleasant behavior of their teacher. When Miss Meadows receives a telegram that her fiancé did not mean what he wrote in his last, hurtful letter, she has the students sing a lovely, heartwarming song, which reflects her renewed sense of happiness and hope.

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This entire short story is filled to the brim with imagery and symbolism. The main ongoing symbol for Miss Meadows's emotions is also the title, "The Singing Lesson." As her thoughts and emotions progress, so do the lyrics and the tone of the song she teaches her students. As she experiences the pain and heartbreak from the letter she receives, she orders her girls to sing "A Lament":

Fast! Ah, too Fast Fade the Ro-o-ses of Pleasure;

Soon Autumn yields unto Wi-i-nter Drear.

Fleetly! Ah, Fleetly Mu-u-sic's Gay Measure Passes away from the Listening Ear.

The lyrics of the song symbolize her tragic situation perfectly. The "rose of pleasure" of her relationship has faded fast, and her fiancé's letter has brought on a "Winter Drear." How "fleetly" the music of her love has "passed away." Miss Meadows even talks the reader through this symbolism as she teaches her students. The "rose of pleasure" symbolizes the rose her fiancé had worn when she last saw him. She tells them to sing the "Winter Drear" line "as if a cold wind was blowing through it," much like the "cold, sharp despair . . . buried in her heart." As she realizes she will have to disappear once everyone knows about her breakup, her students sing "Passes Away."

Once she receives a telegram from her fiancé simply telling her to ignore the letter, she has her students sing a new song:

We come here To-day with Flowers o'erladen,

With Baskets of Fruit and Ribbons to boot, To-oo Congratulate. . . .

These lyrics symbolize her new relieved and happy state. The telegram is symbolized by the "flowers o'erladen" and the "baskets of fruit and ribbons," coming to her to "congratulate" her engagement and returning things to the way they were.

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