A Wagner Matinee

by Willa Cather
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Explain why the narrator feels he owes a great debt to Aunt Georgiana, and what special treat he has planned for her in Boston. How does she react to this opportunity in A Wagner Matinee?

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"Don't love it so well, Clark, or it may be taken from you. Oh! dear boy, pray that whatever your sacrifice may be, it be not that."

The narrator feels obliged to Aunt Georgiana because she has provided him the joy of music; so, after learning that she will soon arrive in Boston, he attains tickets to a concert. However, Clark is rather surprised that she does not react at first, and then she cries.

Because Clark Howard relishes the delight that music brings to the senses and its message to the soul, he cherishes the memories of times when his Aunt Georgiana taught him piano lessons as he shared his aunt's great enjoyment of music with her. So, when he learns that she is returning to Boston after years in Nebraska, Clark makes arrangements for them to attend a concert. When they first arrive at the concert hall, Aunt Georgiana seems rather anxious about her appearance and how she should act; however, after the musicians enter and take their places, she gives "a little stir of anticipation and looks around with "quickening interest." As the orchestra plays the overture, Clark feels that the low bow strings touch his heart, and her glances over at his aunt. After some hesitation, Georgiana clutches his sleeve, but she says nothing. Once the overture is completed, 

[S]he sat staring at the orchestra through a dullness of thirty years, through the films made little by little by each of the three hundred and sixty-five days in every one of them.

Clark wonders if the music still speaks to her and if she has enough left in her after the deprivation of the Nebraska farm life in order to be able to "comprehend this power which had kindled the world since she left it?" But he attains no answer as his aunt sits stoically. Soon after the tenor begins "The Prize Song," however, he hears his aunt draw her breath and close her eyes against the tears that have begun to flow. Clark notes,

It never really died, then--the soul that can suffer so excruciatingly and so interminably; it withers to the outward eye only.... 

Afterwards, Aunt Georgiana bursts into tears and tells Clark that she does not want to return to the farm. He understands as imagines the desolate farm with only the sounds of turkeys and cows.

 

 

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