The short story, “Paul’s Case,” by Willa Cather, portrays a clinically depressed young man, Paul, who misunderstands money. Paul was born into the middle class, but he desires a lavish upper class life. Paul’s desires cause him to despise his own community and turn him into an outcast. Due to monetary constraints, Paul cannot fulfill his desire to be a member of the upper class community either. Therefore, Paul believes money is the answer to his problems. Unfortunately, Paul does not understand the correlation between money and hard work, so he sees himself as trapped where he is in society. Whereas, the successful business tycoons he idealizes are able to work hard and amass great riches that advanced their position in society. In “Paul’s Case,” Willa Cather uses symbolism, diction, and an omniscient third person point of view to examine how misunderstanding money is dangerous. This misunderstanding of money is Paul’s demise at the end of the story.
Vivid symbolism is distributed throughout “Paul’s Case” in an impactful way. The most important symbol in “Paul’s Case” is the red carnation. In the beginning of the story, Paul is at a hearing regarding his eventual expulsion from High School. “His teachers felt this afternoon that his whole attitude was symbolized by his shrug and his flippantly red carnation flower…” (189). Indeed it is, the carnation is a bold and rebellious symbol of Paul. Like Paul, it stands out awkwardly and inappropriately throughout the story. When Paul runs away to New York City he notes that the flowers in glass cases “blossomed thus unnaturally in the snow.” (199) The flowers’ well-being is preserved by the glass cases, like Paul remains preserved by his existence in New York City. When the flowers lea...
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...the reader would not fully comprehend Paul’s relationship with art, reflective of drug addiction, and the void that it fills in his life. As with most drug addicts, monetary support is necessary to satisfy Paul’s exponentially increasing appetite for art and culture. This insatiable appetite is a void that Paul eventually realizes he is incapable of filling when he forfeits completely by committing suicide.
The third person omniscient point of view in “Paul’s Case” is crucial in regard to understanding Paul’s psyche. It is more effective than a first person point of view because the reader may ascertain not just Paul’s relationship with the world, as a first person point of view would provide, but also the world’s relationship with Paul. He maintains disdain for the middle-class society he lives amongst, which results in his isolation. The reader can also see that
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