A Wagner Matinée


Willa Cather

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Themes and Colors
Civilization vs. The Frontier Theme Icon
Music and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Home and Estrangement Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Wagner Matinée, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Civilization vs. The Frontier

“A Wagner Matinée” explores the complex role of the pioneer in the American imagination, particularly through the character of Georgiana Carpenter. A former teacher at the Boston Conservatory, upon marrying Georgiana leaves behind her highly-cultured world for the Nebraska prairie, where she fights with grace and determination to maintain her connection to music. While her nephew Clark’s memories of his aunt suggest that she has succeeded in this, her visit to Boston, after…

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Music and the Human Soul

Music (and its absence) figures prominently in both Clark’s and Georgiana’s experiences of frontier life. Clark’s boyhood memories of Aunt Georgiana always involve her love of music, and often focus on the ways she used music to comfort Clark in an environment devoid of beauty. For him, music pointed to the promise of life beyond the frontier farm. For Georgiana, however, music comes to represent a path she chose not to take, and—especially…

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Home and Estrangement

Georgiana’s history is one of deepening estrangement. Despite having grown up in the city, she reappears in Boston like an anachronism and struggles to get a solid grip on her surroundings until she enters the familiar world of the concert hall. Yet during the concert Georgiana experiences a deeper estrangement still, realizing she can neither return to Nebraska the same as before. Having left one home to establish another, Georgiana has sacrificed a sense…

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