A Wagner Matinee Questions and Answers
by Willa Cather

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Aunt Georgiana's experience in "A Wagner Matinee" by Willa Cather was both difficult and exhilarating.  Explain. 

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Aunt Georgiana  raised the narrator of the story “A Wagner Matinee” by Willa Cather.  She is coming to town to see about some legal affairs.  His uncle wants his nephew to take care of her while she is in Boston. This poignant story has as its protagonist Clark Hamilton, the first person narrator.

Clark was raised on the Nebraska farm by his aunt and uncle.  When he receives a letter that his Aunt Georgiana will be visiting him in Boston, Clark is taken back to the times that he spent with his aunt. 

“I owed to this woman most of the good that ever came my way in my boyhood and had a reverential affection for her…I found her among my music book, she came up to me m 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.”’

His aunt had been a music teacher in the Boston Conservatory.  After falling in love with Clark’s uncle, his aunt gave everything up to go to Nebraska and start a life in the wilderness with her husband on a farm. She raised six children and worked every day on the farm. It has been thirty years since she has been away from the farm.

The hardest part of Aunt Georgiana’s life physically may be her “battered figure” after having six children and working hard for so many years. Yet, the true longing and hardship are discovered when Clark takes his aunt on a surprise outing to a concert by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

His aunt was not as exhilarated by the potential concert as Clark thought she might be.  Although familiar with the musical work, it has been a long time since she had experienced anything like a concert.  She was more concerned about back home and a calf and losing some fish to spoiling.

At first, Clark wished that he had just let his aunt return to her home in Red Willow County.  However, as the pair enters the Concert Hall, Clark can see a different person coming out of the aunt. As she looks around before the concert starts, it was with a new pair of eyes that Aunt Georgiana views her circumstances. 

She sat looking about her with eyes as impersonal, almost as stony, as those with which the granite Ramses in a museum watches the ebbs and flows about his pedestal. 

Aunt Georgiana becomes transfixed during the concert.  Her senses take in the musicians, the crowd, and the curtains. To her, this experience was like an artist’s easel. Tears flow down her face as she ensconces herself in the Wagnerian music.  It was if this experience sank into the soul of his aunt. 

As Clark watches his aunt, he wonders what is going on her mind and heart.  As he looked at his aunt’s hands, he was shocked.  The once talented, pianist hands were now stretched and tentacled. Clark holds one of them gently.   

Aunt Georgiana asked Clark a heart-rending question: “And you have been hearing this ever since you left me, Clark?”

When the concert ended, his aunt refused to leave for a few minutes. She told her nephew that she did not want to leave, but she guessed that they had to go.

Clark understood his aunt. For her, outside the concert hall lay the cattle, house, meals to be prepared and the life without her beloved music.

This was the greatest loss of all to Aunt Georgiana: to live a life so far away from the wonder of her music. His aunt made her choice and this was her difficult consequence. 

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