In "A Wagner Matinee", would it have been better for Aunt Georgiana if she had not come to Boston? Explain.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Going to Boston allowed Aunt Georgiana to rekindle her love for music, even though it was a painful experience that evoked nostalgia. It was, therefore, a good thing that she actually got to see, even for a last time, that very thing that once made her so happy. Yes, it is painful to her to recognize many things that she could have done differently. However, that intense pain that we all experience every time we re-live a moment in our lives that we miss, is precisely a part of life, as it is.  It is not a fair experience, but it is a part of the living experience, nevertheless.

Aunt Georgiana experienced the same emotions that someone who has lost someone feels when they suddenly see their picture, a movie of them, or have a vivid dream involving them: It is melancholy as its purest.  However, in the end, going or not going to the concert would not have made a difference. Georgiana is a woman of her time, and she was, as such, expected to comply with the rigors of her gender sooner or later. Music would have had to go, eventually.

Regardless of how much she loved music, or how good a musician she was, someone from her generation would have needed to find a husband, become a mother, set up a home, and take care of her family.  This would have been the fate of Georgiana and every woman of her time, either way. What saved her somewhat was the fact that she was actually in love with the man whom she ended up marrying and having six children with. True enough, life in a farm in Nebraska is isolated, rough, and silent. Also true enough, Georgiana had to leave her music behind and focus on tending to her big family. All of these sacrifices, and the hard work, took the place of her beloved music, and rendered her literally deaf to her own wants. 

Back to the concert. While it is true that becoming exposed to that which she once loved so much opened up wounds of reminiscence that had long been sealed, the reality is that she has no other option but to cry, wish, regret, and move on. We are never told what happens to her after that moment when she says enraptured in the passion of music that she does not want to leave the concert hall. We never get to find out if she actually acts upon that desperate want to move away from the cows and the silence of the farm, and come back to the world that she gave up. All that we know is that she made the sacrifice of giving up her music whether she knew how badly it would have affected her or not. This is evident when Clark tells us of a memory when he is young and visiting her in the farm:

She seldom talked to me about music, and I understood why. She was a pious woman; she had the consolation of religion; and to her at least her martyrdom was not wholly sordid. Once [...] she came up to me and, putting her hands over my eyes, gently drew my head back upon her shoulder, saying tremulously, "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, it is clear that Georgiana knew, to the best of her abilities, that she was giving up the greatest love of her life. She, however, would have not been given a choice to do otherwise considering her time and place in history, and in society. It is debatable that it is best not to go back to something that would cause her to think that marrying and having her children was a mistake. It is perhaps easier to think that burying a passion forever is a “healthy” thing to do in order to avoid pain. However, pain is an unavoidable reality. It is pain that helps us see life for what it really is. She could have denied herself the chance to listen to music again, but the passion would have still been there inside, lurking at any time to manifest itself.

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