The Singing Lesson: Summary & Analysis

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

'The Singing Lesson' by Katherine Mansfield explores a short part of a teacher's day. Read on to find out just what happens and get an analysis of these events.

Summary of ''The Singing Lesson''

If you can remember a time when a teacher seemed to be in a horrible mood and take it out on the students, you'll recognize some of what happens in Katherine Mansfield's ''The Singing Lesson''.

The short story finds us walking a school hall with Miss Meadows as she heads to the music room. The first lines tell us that Miss Meadows is feeling ''cold, sharp despair.'' When she gets to the music room, we find out that her despair comes from the fact that her potential husband has written her a letter saying that the marriage would be a mistake. It pretty much said ''It's not's you. It's me.'' The author of the letter writes that the idea of being married fills him with disgust. The word disgust is crossed out and the word ''regret'' is written above it. Ouch.

As the lesson continues, Miss Meadows shows very little kindness towards her students, not even her favorite student who always gives her a yellow flower. She ignores the flower and continues the class in a cruel and cold tone. She continues to privately reflect on the loss of her potential husband. She laments that it had been a miracle for her to be engaged and now it's over. In the middle of her reflections, she gets a telegram from her ex-fiance. It tells her to ignore the letter and that he has purchased a hat stand they had been talking about. Miss Meadows returns to her class in a fantastic mood and asks her students to open to a happy song. She scolds them for sounding too dreary and continues the lesson in an overjoyed spirit.

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