What would one summarize as the general theme of Willa Cather's short story A Wagner Matinee?
Willa Cather’s 1904 short story A Wagner Matinee tells the story of a middle-aged woman, Georgiana, on the cusp of old age, who arrives in the land of her youth, Boston, Massachusetts, for the purpose of settling a legal matter. For the past 30 years, Georgiana has been living in Nebraska, having married a simple man whom she met on a visit there when she was 30 years old. Cather’s story is about this once-cultured educator, a music teacher at the Boston Conservatory, who has existed in a cultural vacuum, and about how her nephew, the story’s narrator, comes to appreciate the sacrifice his aging aunt made to be with the man with whom she had fallen in love. Cather’s narrator describes his initial impressions of Aunt Georgiana when, after an absence of three decades, she arrives back in Boston:
“Myself, I saw my aunt's misshapened figure with that feeling of awe and respect with which we behold explorers who have left their ears and fingers north of Franz Josef Land, or their health somewhere along the Upper Congo.”
In other words, the years have not been kind to Georgiana. The physically harsh nature of life on a farm, however, would pale in comparison to the cultural deficiencies inherent in one’s transference from Boston to Nebraska – a land that Cather clearly held in disdain. Taking his aunt to a performance of Richard Wagner, the narrator contemplates the effects of 30 years on the farm to a woman once immersed in the more genteel, refined world of Boston’s fine arts scene:
“The world there is the flat world of the ancients; to the east, a cornfield that stretched to daybreak; to the west, a corral that...
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