A Wagner Matinee Questions and Answers
by Willa Cather

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In "A Wagner's Matinee" what is the conflict with Aunt Georgiana?

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After Aunt Georgiana revisits Boston, from which she has been so culturally removed, it is difficult for her to adjust to this newer and even more sophisticated city. Perhaps more importantly, having lived a life of isolation and deprivation, she struggles to remain somewhat detached so that she will not miss music again when she returns to the desolate farm. She fights against these rich memories of the music and culture she left behind so many years ago. 

Clark notices a marked change in his aunt after her arrival and she is put to bed to rest because the long ride on a train has unsettled her. From thirty years on a farm, she has sacrificed her passions for monotonous labor. Clark wonders if it may be cruel to take his aunt to the performance as he recalls her words to him when he lived with them and she taught him to play her small parlor organ. One day long ago, seeing the joy on his young face as he played a piece he enjoyed, she drew his head back against her and said with emotion,

"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."

Now in Boston after three decades, Aunt Georgiana frets about what chores she has forgotten to do at home, and her musical soul seems dormant, if not dead. But, as she listens to the orchestra when Clarke takes her to Wagner's "music drama," the emotions that the music evokes are revived within her; moreover, some memories and feelings are too poignant, and Aunt Georgiana cries at her sense of waste and wear, and her long deprivation from the beauty and joy of such music because it is music that she will again have to leave behind for the desolate farm. She cries, too, for the renewed memory of that which she has always "loved so well."

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