A Wagner Matinee by Cather

Summary: A Wagner Matinee is about a man that has received a letter saying that his aunt is going to be coming to town, it ask him to take care of her while she is there. The man remembers his aunt fondly and wants to show her a good time while she is in town, so he decides to take her to an opera because she was trained in music when she was younger.


Aunt Georgiana - aunt to narrator, she is coming to the city after living 30 years on a farm

Mrs. Springer - landlord to narrator

Howard Carpenter - Husband to Aunt Georgiana

Clark - story narrator

Section One:

  • Aunt Georgiana is on her way to town because she has been left money from a a bachelor relative
  • Clark perceives his aunt as being battered, but respected
  • The aunt was from a wealthy family, has a good education including music. ; She elopes with the uncle and moves to a homestead to escape her families opinions of him.
  • The uncle is poor, so the family was brought up on a farm away from the city
  • The narrator remembers the aunt teaching him late into the night, he recalls trying to do some music he was having a hard time with ; the aunt tells him "Don't love it so well, Clark, or it may be taken from you."
  • Clark decides he will take his aunt to the opera, but after attempting to talk with her about the city he finds his aunt is avoiding the subject a little;
  • The day of the opera Clark notices how unemotional his aunt is ; "she sat looking about her her with eyes as impersonal, almost as stony, as those with which the granite Rameses...." ; (watching like a statue)
  • The aunt gets very emotional during the opera, she cries and states to Clark; "And you have been hearing this ever since you left me, Clark?"
  • The aunt and Clark sit in the opera house after the show is finished and the guest have all left, then the out cries and pleads "I don't want to go, Clark, I don't want to go!"

Other Notes:

  • The opera matinee may be considered either a mean thing or nice thing to do for the aunt; in one respect she has closed off that portion of her life and it may be helping her embrace it again; while in another it may have made her think she has lost the last thirty years of experiences.
  • Clark is thankful to his aunt because she has educated him, enabling him to move into the city and live
  • The aunt attempts to bring music to her through the church choir
  • Clark mentions he thinks his aunt is in a state of sleep, he thinks she is doing her daily life in a dream state to escape her own realities
  • Clark has grown to understand that life is about choices and the consequences of those choices are excepted fully ; for the aunt , she made the choice to elope and forget her life as a person that has money; in doing so she has also foregone her music, because it has become a luxury.

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