“A Wagner Matinee” by Willa Cather is centered on the important role that art plays in the development of this story. Music is symbolic of the life that Clark’s aunt, Georgiana, left behind in her past when she was once an accomplished pianist. The fact that “she seemed not to realize that she was in the city where she had spent her youth, the place longed for hungrily half a lifetime,” demonstrates that she yearns for the music that once filled her with happiness from an earlier period but appeared to have shut herself out from much hope or pleasure.
Music is what awakens her from this state of lifelessness. Her reaction during the concert was one of re-discovery for her long-lost joy and gratitude for this reawakening process. From the moment she entered the concert hall, she was “stepping suddenly into the world to which she had been dead for a quarter of a century.” We see her transform throughout the duration of the concert, from being “a trifle less passive” to becoming lively and full of life, as the musical numbers proceed on.
When Clark mentions that he “… first realized that for her this broke a silence of thirty years; the inconceivable silence of the plains,” he is referring to how the first number in the program was beginning to revive her spirits. It clearly points out that she was becoming more self-aware and breaking out of that cage that she was trapped in back home in Red Willow County, where she does not have the chance to experience such entertainment and pleasures.
Aunt Georgiana was able to appreciate music again through this concert. But her admiration for music was always deep within her soul because her passion “never really died.” It was, in a sense, a part of her – and after deliberately giving away her life filled with music to go live on the silent frontier with Uncle Howard, she had a piece of her taken away and lived through thirty years of dull, monotonous days.
Her life at Red Willow, Nebraska represent the emptiness and discontentment of her soul, whereas the music filled world of Boston reach out to her spirits and make her feel more alive and blissful. She prefers life in the city and cries, “I don’t want to go, Clark, I don’t want to go.” I believe that Aunt Georgiana was meant to live a life surrounded by music if she ever were to be truly happy. She feels trapped and helpless in any other setting because “For her, just outside t
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