Katherine Mansfield

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How does Miss Meadows project her emotions onto the girls in "The Singing Lesson"?

Quick answer:

When Miss Meadows thinks her wedding has been called off, she casts her own emotions on the girls by treating them coldly, hurting their feelings, and having them sing a sad song. However, when a telegram arrives implying that the wedding is still on, Miss Meadows brings joy back to the classroom.

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Miss Meadows is in agony as her day begins, feeling torn apart because she has received a letter from the man she hoped to marry telling her he thinks it is a "mistake" to go forward with their wedding plans. She takes this out on her students by treating them in ways that wound them. For example, when Mary Beazley gives her a yellow chrysanthemum, as she does every day, instead of thanking her and tucking it in her belt, she totally ignores the gesture. Mary is so hurt that tears come to her eyes, but Miss Meadows simply starts the lesson with a voice of "ice."

Miss Meadows also has the girls sing a very sad song, which reflects her feelings of lament. Miss Meadows is so strange and abrupt with the girls that some of the younger ones start to cry.

However, when Miss Meadows gets called to the front office to receive a telegram from Basil telling her that he made a terrible mistake and implying the wedding is still on, Miss Meadows is overjoyed and spends the last fifteen minutes of the class having the girls sing a joyful song. Now her new mood lifts the spirits of her students.

The story shows how through the circumstances of our lives we can spread misery or happiness and explores how we tend to impose our own moods on people over whom we have power.

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