Wagner Matinee

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English 1011
3 December 2009
“A Journey through Life”

Life is all about choices. Even the simplest choice could turn a situation around and further affect the future of an individual forever. I found Willa Cather’s short story “A Wagner Matinee” very interesting. It deals with different levels of choices, some which might affect the character’s life slightly, while other choices may affect their entire lifetime. The way the story is written makes the reader think a lot about the events that occur along the way. It leaves the reader wondering how the situation the characters are to encounter is widely affected by the choice of decision that is made. Many psychologists have tried and still try to research and explain the way humans think and make their own decisions by theories, views, and models. There are many psychologists who contribute their lives in order to examine the similarity between decisions and their consequences. It is found that most of the decisions are through experiences, stereotypes and personal views. The story starts with the narrator, Clark, receiving a letter from his uncle, Howard. In the letter there is a notice stating that his aunt, Georgiana, is coming to Boston for the settling of her relative’s estate. However, when he reads the letter he notices that Uncle Howard postponed sending the letter until the last moment possible, because the date that is noted for his aunt’s arrival to town is the very next day. Clark describes the letter as “worn and rubbed, looking as If it had been carried for some days in a coat pocket that was non too clean” (Cather 201). It shows how his uncle’s poor decision could have turned out if he had delayed sending the letter for one extra day or if Clark was not at home that day to receive it. When Clark expresses his feelings toward his aunt he states how important and affective she was on his childhood. She was the one who taught him about music, Shakespeare, mythology, and Latin. If not for her, he would have been just an ordinary farmer boy who knows nothing about education. Thus, it is clear how upset he would have gotten with himself and his uncle if he would have received the letter late and missed his aunt’s arrival. Decision avoidance is a tendency of avoiding making a choice by postponing it or by seeking an easy way out that involves neither action nor change. It usually results from reason and emotion. As mentioned in the “Psychological Bulletin” by Christopher J. Anderson: “Under conditions of high stress, this avoidance can become extreme. Take, for example, the “old sergeant syndrome” described by Janis and Mann (1977b). Infantry on the front lines of battle for long periods, witnessing the death of comrades and having no hope of transfer, have been known to ignore decisions required to protect themselves under fire or from routine safety hazards. For them, decision avoidance costs lives”. There are four occurrences that had been discussed by researches: “Status quo”, “omission”, “Inaction inertia”, and “Deferral”. There is no need for the discussion of all four phenomena, since they all are all related to previous outcomes and feedback. Decision avoidance is made when facing a decision concerning a valuable thing to the decision maker. For a person there is usually only one chance to make the right decision, but sometimes when the person thinks about the options of the possible consequences it draws him or her back, especially if there is a possibility of discrepancy, loss, or regret. In the decision made by Uncle Howard, the reason for postponing the letter until the last moment might have been for various reasons. Some of the reasons could be that he might have knew how puzzled she will be when she goes back to her home town, he might have thought how much he would miss her when she will be away, thought of their kids, or was afraid of her staying for a much longer...
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