How does Aunt Georgina show self-assertion and independence in "A Wagner's Matinee"?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "A Wagner's Matinee", the character of Aunt Georgiana shows self-assertion and independence at different moments of her life, culminating with the last stamp we get of her in the story, where she is obviously unwilling to return to her life in the farm. There, she has spent thirty years of struggle, dullness, silence and isolation after having made the choice of eloping with her now-husband back when she was younger. 

Perhaps the first instance to consider is precisely that moment when she and a younger, poor man fell in love and opted to elope. The interesting about this match is that not only is Howard Carpenter younger, poor, and less educated. What shocks the reader the most is that she would not have been a match for this boy even if he had been smarter and a bit more sophisticated. She was not exactly a young beauty herself. 

She had kindled the callow fancy of the most idle and shiftless of all the village lads, and had conceived for this Howard Carpenter one of those absurd and extravagant passions which a handsome country boy of twenty-one sometimes inspires in a plain, angular, spectacled woman of thirty.

Once there, rather than complain about what she lost, she made the most out of it, serving food to the field hands, working her farm with her husband, and even managing to teach the narrator everything, from Latin to other academics. She did it all, and she did it while understanding that she may have sacrificed a lot of commodities to be where she is.

As a result of her years in the countryside, Aunt Georgiana aged roughly, dressed shabbily, but still retained the (perhaps self-imposed) stoicism that Clark admires so much about her. Her looks do not bother her, and she does not see the other women attending the matinee as competition, nor does she feel shy about her own looks. 

My Aunt Georgiana regarded them as though they had been so many daubs of tube paint on a palette.

It is at the end, when Georgiana has broken into the music that she had not heard in so many years, that she finally gives in her otherwise stern demeanor and admits that she does not want to return back to the country, where nothing but dullness and ugliness would await her. This is the reason why, when Clark declared to her once how much he, too, loved music, her response was: 

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

Therefore, she stood by her choices and the consequences of them; while she does admit that the choice may or may have not been the best, she also admits with her behavior at the end that her true passion in life may not have been a man, or a family, or even a home; it was music, and that is what she ended up having to sacrifice the most. 

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A Wagner Matinee

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