A Wagner Matinee Questions and Answers
by Willa Cather

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How would you describe Aunt Georgiana in the story "A Wagner Matinee"? 

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Aunt Georgiana is a woman who has deprived herself of those precious things which have fed her soul; consequently, she appears worn and aged beyond her years. In addition, there is the aloofness of one who spends long times alone.

Because Aunt Georgiana has closed much of herself from memories of what she used to enjoy, she appears somewhat stiff and worn, and because she has lived a harsh, monotonous, and solitary life on the plains of Nebraska, her skin is leathery and yellowed. Her mouth and eyebrows twitch nervously from the lonely life of denial that she has led.

After having traveled long hours on the train, 

...she looked not unlike one of those charred, smoked bodies that firemen lift from the debris of a burned building...

and she must rest for a considerable time before being able to visit with her nephew. Even then, she seems to be only semi-awake. And, so, Clark wonders if she will enjoy the matinee to which he plans to take her. For, when he does take her, Aunt Georgiana sits stiffly and looks around her with "eyes as impersonal, almost as stony, as those which the granite Ramses in a museum watches ...."

When Clark escorts his aunt to the concert, Aunt Georgiana seems to relax her stiffness some. Then, when the orchestra begins to play, a "silence of thirty years" is broken in the aunt. Yet she remains immobile throughout the numbers from The Flying Dutchman until the tenor sings the "Prize Song," and Clark notices that she gasps and tears wet her cheeks; further, as the music continues, she weeps and trembles.

It is then that Clark understands that the deprivation of the lonely farm on the plains has been so harsh that returning to the city and attending the musical performance has reminded her too painfully of what she has sacrificed and reawakened her musical spirit to its terrible loss.  

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