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"?

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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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. The Science Mistress says to her, "You look fro-zen,"...

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