In "The Wagner Matinee," why does Aunt Georgina move to Nebraska in the first place?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"The Wagner Matinee" by Willa Cather, the narrator named Clark receives a letter from his Uncle Howard informing him that his Aunt Georgiana will soon be arriving from Nebraska. It seems that Georgiana has received "a small legacy by a bachelor relative who had recently died," and she must go to Boston in order to settle the estate. Clark has been called upon to meet her at the train station and to attend to whatever she needs.

When Aunt Georgiana arrives, Clark is a little shocked at her dowdy appearance. For, she seems to have little sense of fashion or appearance from having lived on the plains. Having arrived in Boston, she is slightly dazed by the urban setting; for, she has spent many years on the plain. But, on the next morning after she has arrived, Clark asks her if she has heard any of the Wagnerian operas. When he takes her one evening, Aunt Georgiana hears Tannhauser, Wagner's opera about German minstrels, and Clark realizes that never really died...the soul that can suffer so excruciatingly and so interminably, it withers to the outward eye only; lie that strange moss which can lie on a dusty shelf half a century...She wept so throughout the development and elaboration of the melody.

This reawakening of her emotions with the Wagnerian melodies awakens her from forgetfulness.


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