Willa Cather’s “A Wagner Matinee” tells the story of an educated, intelligent, but impetuous woman (Georgiana) who leaves her nineteenth-century Boston home at the age of thirty to elope in the brutal and unsettled Nebraska plains with the twenty-one-year-old “idle and shiftless” Howard Carpenter.
The story begins as she returns to Boston years later to claim a small inheritance. Cather emphasizes how much Georgiana has changed as the story is told through the first-person point-of-view of her nephew, Clark. Her transformation is the result of the physically demanding and isolated nature of her life in Nebraska.
When the narrator receives the letter from his Uncle Howard asking him to pick up Georgiana from the train station, it comes the day before her arrival. The narrator obviously feels that this irresponsible behavior is typical for Uncle Howard:
He had characteristically delayed writing until, had I been away from home for a day, I must have missed the good woman altogether.
As the story progresses, the reader learns that Uncle Howard is not highly thought of by the rest of the family, and that he has not done a commendable job of making a good home for Georgiana in Nebraska.