Characterize Clark as the narrator and protagonist of "A Wagner Matinee" by Willa Cather. 

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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“A Wagner Matinee” by Willa Cather utilizes the protagonist as the narrator.  Clark is a young man who presently lives in Boston. His Uncle Howard has asked him to assist his Aunt Georgiana who has traveled from their farm in Nebraska to Boston business. 

Characterization of protagonist


When Clark thinks back to Nebraska, he is no longer an independent adult but a young boy staying with his relatives on their farm.  He remembers himself as an awkward boy, who was bashful.  He thinks back to his hands being raw and sore from his work on the farm.  

Clark is a sensitive man who worries about his aunt.  He believes that her heavy weighted body will present problems for her. He is almost ashamed of her dowdy appearance. Her skin was yellow; she had ill-fitting dentures; and nervous tics as a result of her isolation and physical suffering.

From his memory of the time on the farm, Clark understands:

I owed to this woman most of the good that ever came my way, and had a reverential affection for her. It was to her, at her mending or ironing that I read my first Shakespeare; and her old text-book of mythology was the first ever came to my hands.

What a great character! Clark is a young man who exhibits qualities that are admirable.  At first, Clark worries that he will be ashamed of his aunt.  However, with the shared memories of his time on the farm, it is apparent that he loves his Aunt Georgiana.  She had lived in Boston as a young woman. Before her marriage to Clark’s uncle, Georgiana had been a music teacher at the Boston Conservatory. 

Georgiana met my uncle. He loved her and asked her to go with him to build a life in Nebraska.  She agreed.  For thirty years, Georgiana has been isolated on the farm. Clark decides to treat his Aunt to an afternoon of music.  He will take her to afternoon concert of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  His aunt agrees.

The rest of the story is their date to the Wagner concert.  One of Clark’s most endearing qualities comes from his ability to identify with his aunt and to want to please her after she had done so much for him as a child.  He is able to recognize her strong emotions as she returns to a world that she has long missed. 

His aunt changes as she walks into the concert hall. This is her element which she gave up for marriage. When the music begins, Clark’s aunt is so moved that she grabs his coat sleeve because thirty years of silence. Aunt Georgiana transported to another place far away from the farm.

Aunt Georgiana set in her chair until everyone left the concert hall. She began to cry explaining to Clark: “I don’t want to go, Clark. I don’t want to go.”

Clark understood that his aunt did not want to return to her reality.  This was a world that she had forgotten. When she leaves the concert hall, her life becomes the dishcloths hung to dry, the unpainted house, and black pond. 


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