A Wagner Matinée. By WILLA SIBERT CATHER. I RECEIVED one morning a letter, written in pale ink, on glassy, blue-lined note-paper, and bearing the. In A Wagner Matinee by Willa Cather we have the theme of hardship, struggle, isolation, loss, gratitude and connection. Taken from her The. Regionalism and Local Color. A Wagner Matinee. Short Story by Willa Cather did you know? Willa Cather • had such a sharp memory for mannerisms.
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First published in Everybody’s Magazine inWilla Cather’s “A Wagner Matinee” was written early in the author’s career and provides a preview of the tone and style that would later become hallmarks of Cather’s fiction. In this short storyCather explores with stark realism the physically and emotionally damaging effects of pioneer life in rural Nebraska. The story is narrated by Clark, who hosts his Aunt Georgiana when she comes to Boston after leaving her Nebraskan homestead for the first time in many years.
Just as “A Wagner Matinee” features a male character’s point of view, Cather’s later works similarly employ male characters from whose points of view the stories are told. Her first book-length exploration of the frontier setting was the highly acclaimed O Pioneers!
While “A Wagner Matinee” is set in Boston, it is a frontier story at its core, in its focus on Aunt Georgiana and her transformation from a music teacher in Boston to a woman worn and cahher in both body and spirit after decades on a Nebraskan homestead.
The story traces the emotional response of Aunt Georgiana to a concert of the music of the German composer Richard Wagnera cathrr that Aunt Georgiana attends with her nephew.
Clark’s observations of his aunt’s behavior and appearance are interspersed with recollections of the harsh years of. Georgiana’s tearful reaction to Wagner’s music suggests a longing for her former, perhaps fuller life in the city.
Originally published inthis collection is available in a volume edited by James Woodress and published by the University of Nebraska Press. Cather revised the story slightly between its magazine publication in and its appearance in The Troll Garden in ; for example, she eliminated some of the harsher details about Georgiana’s appearance in the later version, changing a description of her figure as misshapen to one of her being stooped in posture.
Cather and Mary Virginia Boak Cather. The family moved to Nebraska in to join Charles Cather’s brother and parents, who had already established a ranch on the plains. After a challenging year on the homestead that they had struggled to wiloa, the Cathers opted to sell catner land and settle themselves in the town of Red Cloud.
Cather would move again several years later, to begin her college preparatory studies in in Lincoln, followed by four years at the University of Nebraska. Upon graduation inshe returned home to Red Cloud for a year before departing for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to begin a job as a magazine editor in Cather soon landed a job as a newspaper editor and drama reviewer for the Daily Vathera position she held for several years before turning to teaching, first at Pittsburgh’s Central High School and later at Allegheny Wagnet School.
Cather’s first volume of poetry, April Twilightswas published in mattinee The following year Cather included the story in her collection of short stories The Troll Garden.
Shortly after, inCather moved to Qilla York City to accept a position on the editorial staff of McClure’s magazine.
Story of the Week: A Wagner Matinée
Inshe moved into an apartment with Edith Lewis, who wagnwr become her lifelong companion. After leaving the magazine inCather began writing and publishing in earnest. Her first novel, Alexander’s Bridgeappeared inand it was soon followed by the two highly acclaimed novels O Pioneers! While she focused on writing novels, producing twelve in the course of her career, Cather also published several volumes of short stories and essays.
Her last novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girlwas published in Cather died in her New York City home from a massive cerebral hemorrhage on April 24, Cather’s “A Wagner Matinee” opens catger the narrator, Clark, receiving a letter from Nebraska, which the reader soon learns is from Clark’s Uncle Howard. The letter informs Clark that his Aunt Georgiana will be visiting him in Boston when she comes to attend to the estate of a deceased relative.
Uncle Howard’s letter asks Clark to meet Georgiana at the station and aid her in whatever way is necessary during her stay in Boston. Upon reading his uncle’s letter, Clark wilal details of his youth spent on his aunt and uncle’s farm in Nebraska. He remembers playing Aunt Georgiana’s piano with fingers sore and raw from husking corn.
At the train station, Clark experiences some challenges in collecting Georgiana. Not only is she the last of the passengers to disembark, but she is covered with soot and dust from her journey. Springer, settles Georgiana into her quarters for the evening upon her arrival in Clark’s home, and Clark does not see his aunt again until the following morning. Reflecting on Georgiana’s haggard appearance, Clark notes how much the woman has changed since she worked as a music teacher in Boston some three decades ago.
The reader learns from Clark’s recollections that Aunt Georgiana had fallen in love with a young man from the country, wed him, and followed him to the Nebraskan frontier.
Clark mentally enumerates the facts of Georgiana and Howard’s primitive existence and the tolls his aunt’s hard life has exacted on her appearance. He realizes also how much he owes his iwlla, as she sacrificed much of her time to teach him.
She would, he recalls, help him with Latin verb conjugations and listen to him read Shakespeare after she had tucked six children into bed. On the day following Georgiana’s arrival, Clark takes her to a concert given by the Boston Symphony Orchestrawhich would be performing the works of the German composer Richard Wagner.
Clark wonders whether Georgiana will, after her years of hardship and deprivation, be able to enjoy or appreciate the music. She seems reluctant to be out in the city and distracted by tasks left undone back home in Nebraska.
As the musicians are seated in the concert hall, Clark studies his aunt’s reaction closely, noting that she seems to stir with anticipation and finally begins to become tuned in to her surroundings. The concert begins, and Aunt Georgiana grasps Clark’s sleeve; he thinks that these first strains of music are breaking thirty years of silence inflicted upon his aunt by the Nebraskan plains. Images of Georgiana’s bleak homestead appear in Clark’s mind. Wondering what his aunt is gleaning from the music, he recalls what a good pianist she had once been and remembers the breadth of her musical education.
During the intermission, Clark questions his aunt about one of the songs they heard, and she informs him that she has actually heard it before, as sung by a German immigrant back in Red Willow County.
Aunt and nephew briefly discuss the music and its structure. During the second half of the concert, Aunt Georgiana weeps repeatedly. Again Clark wonders how much of the music’s complexities his aunt can comprehend, how much of her ability to process the music has been dissolved through the hard labor and isolation she has endured for so many years. The concert concludes, and the spectators depart the concert hall, yet Clark and his aunt remain behind.
When Clark addresses Aunt Georgiana, who has made no move to leave, she bursts into tears, telling him that she does not wish to leave. Clark interprets his aunt’s response as an indication not simply of her unwillingness to leave the music behind but also of her extreme reluctance to return to the harshness of her life in Nebraska.
Georgiana Carpenter is the wife of Howard Carpenter and the maternal aunt of the narrator, Clark. From the beginning, the reader is offered a startling physical portrait of Georgiana, whom Clark initially describes as “pathetic and grotesque” in her appearance. Filthy from her travels, Georgiana seems disoriented and fatigued, and Clark comments that only after a little while does she seem to recognize him.
Commenting on her meeting of and subsequent marriage to Howard, Clark states that at thirty, Georgiana had been “angular” and “spectacled. He regards her in the same way that explorers are viewed when they return to civilization with missing limbs. He observes that the wind and alkaline water have yellowed her skin so that it is like that of a “Mongolian’s.
At the same time, Clark remembers warmly the way Georgiana tutored him when he lived with her as a youth. She was knowledgeable not only in music but in Latin, mythology, and Shakespeare as well.
Short Story Analysis: A Wagner Matinee by Willa Cather – The Sitting Bee
When Clark struggled with difficult piano pieces, she implored him to not love music too much, because if it were ever to be taken from him, as it was from her, the sacrifice might seem too great. Georgiana does indeed seem to resist her response to the music when Clark takes her to the concert; she attempts to not “love it so well,” as she had once cautioned her nephew.
She seems saddened by listening to the second half of the program, and Clark wonders about her ability to comprehend the structure of the music. Nevertheless, she appears to ascertain enough about the music to feel moved by it, for she weeps during much of the second half of the concert. Georgiana does not rise to leave when the music finishes, instead sobbing to Clark that she does want to go.
Howard Carpenter is the husband of Georgiana and the uncle of Clark. He sends Clark a letter informing him that Georgiana will be coming to Boston to attend to the estate of a bachelor relative who has died. Howard requests in his letter that Clark meet Georgiana at the train station and assist her in whatever way he can. Clark notes that, “characteristically,” Howard put off writing the letter for so long that Clark would have missed his aunt entirely if he had been away from home for the day.
Clark additionally reveals a little of Howard’s character as the story progresses, describing him as having been “the most idle and shiftless of all the village lads” in one of the mountain towns to which Georgiana had gone to teach music. The reader is additionally informed that Howard was twenty-one when he met the thirty-year-old Georgiana, whom he followed back to Boston when she returned.
The pair eloped, and Howard took his new bride to the frontier in Nebraska. According to Clark, Georgiana’s friends waggner family were critical of her decision to wed Howard, whom Clark points out “of course” had no financial security to offer Georgiana.
Clark is the matinde of “A Wagner Matinee. Clark does not reveal much about cathet directly throughout the course of the story. His reflections pertain primarily to his aunt, although he does comment about the years he spent on Georgiana and Howard’s Nebraskan homestead.
Much of what the reader cathed about Clark’s character is gleaned from his views about his aunt. He seems to revere her for the sacrifices she has made and is, at the same caather, somewhat repulsed by the woman into which she has degenerated. Pity and revulsion are the first emotions that rise up when he recalls her appearance, and reading her name in his uncle’s letter dredges up in Clark powerful memories from his youth when he was a shy, “gangling farmer-boy,” with hands “cracked and sore from the corn husking.
After seeing his aunt disembark from the train and escorting her home, Clark’s response to her is again a combination of positive and negative feelings.
He remarks upon her disfigured appearance just prior to discussing the respect he has for her. Clark then, in a somewhat condescending tone, describes the absurdity of Georgiana’s attraction to Howard when the couple first met and remarks that “of course” Howard was penniless when the pair left for Nebraska.
Clark’s continued fascination with the flaws in his aunt’s physical appearance is revealed when he describes her drab clothing, sallow skin, and poor posture. These exterior flaws Clark juxtaposes with the “reverential affection” he possesses for Georgiana.
He fondly recalls all she taught him despite her personal fatigue and suffering, admitting how much he owes her.
A Wagner Matinée
During the course of the Wagner concert, to which Clark takes his aunt in an effort to entertain catuer with the music that so inspired her life years ago, Clark’s attitude is a mixture of pity and concern. He wonders on more than one occasion if she is able to understand the intricacies of the music’s structure and composition. He worries that perhaps he should have left her memories undisturbed, so as to have let her remain in what he perceives to be a numbed state.
When at the end of the concert Georgiana sobs and blurts that she wagnef not want to go, Clark claims to understand her despair.
For her, he states, just beyond the door of the concert hall lies the rough frontier life that she has temporarily left behind. Having tasted her former life once again, Georgiana is desperate to forestall her return to Nebraska, Clark assumes.
Springer is the landlady at the boarding house where Clark, the narrator of the story, lives. She shows Georgiana to her room, and Clark observes the consideration Mrs. Springer shows Georgiana by hiding any surprise she might have had at Georgiana’s bedraggled appearance.
Although “A Wagner Matinee” is set in Boston, the story is at its core about life on the western frontier. In particular, the harshness of frontier living is contrasted with the pleasantness of urban society in the Northeast. Through the observations of her narrator, Clark, Cather takes pains to demonstrate the brutal effects of frontier living on the former Boston music teacher, Georgiana.
Her appearance is regarded as horrifying and alien.