The setting of the short story “Paul’s Case” is clear and appropriate for the story. This is because Paul's feelings in the story happen to have a direct connection to the setting of the story. The East Coast of the United States is where the story takes place. From Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Newark, New Jersey, and then on to New York, New York, the exact setting differs throughout the story. “…the dull dawn was beginning to show grey when the engine whistled a mile out of Newark” (Cather). At this point in the story, the main character, Paul, is on board a train which has departed from his hometown of Pittsburgh en route to the Jersey City Station. From there, he plans to make his way to the glamorous New York City, a city that he has always dreamed about visiting. As Paul reads the Pittsburgh paper on the morning of his eighth day in New York, he figures out that his dad is coming for him. “The rumour had reached Pittsburgh that the boy had been seen in a New York hotel, and his father had gone East to find him and bring him home” (Cather). Paul’s father is pursuing him because Paul had left home over a week ago and his father, only now, knows where Paul has run off to. The setting has a direct correlation to the state of Paul’s mind. For example, in a gloomy Pittsburgh, Paul tries anything and everything to get out of the life he is living, and escapes to the glamour and high-class life of New York. “…the New York scenes are heavily ironic…as [Paul] luxuriates in the Waldorf” (Wasserman). He does this in an attempt to find a better life for himself and to make himself, ultimately, happy.
Paul's Character in Paul's Case
Pauls's Case is the story of a young man who struggles with his identity. Paul feels that he knows where he belongs, but his family and teachers refuse to support his choices. In the middle of Paul's Case, there is a switch in narration. At this point, the reader can associate with Paul and his problems. Paul struggles with both internal and external conflicts, causing him to be quite a puzzling character.
In “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather, we are invited into the world of a peculiar boy named Paul who struggles with himself and society in search of his place. Paul seeks both power and security yet is provided with neither. Paul is described as sly, intellectual, conniving, artistic, secretive, imaginative and depressed. Nothing about Paul seems right. His clothes are too big, his family is too distant, his school is too strict, absolutely everything around Paul contrasts with him. He seems to be in clear opposition of the world around him, especially in Pittsburgh, PA. It seems that the closer Paul is to his father, the more he acts out (or the more we notice it). Paul cannot stand the thought of being controlled or being under the authority of another. He lives loose, unstable, carnal and inconsiderately. He craves an illusion that he refuses to work for. He sees results but ignores discipline and hard-work. He salivates over the idea of wealth and dreads the concept of working to get there. He is a direct foil to his father.
Cather, Willa. “Paul’s Case.” The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. Eds. R.V. Cassill and Richard Bausch. Shorter 6th ed. New York: Norton, 2000. 198-207.
In ‘Paul’s Case’ Paul has created a fantasy world in which he becomes entranced, even to the point of lying to classmates about the tales of grandeur and close friendships that he had made with the members of the stock company. This fantasy falls apart around him as “the principle went to Paul’s father, and Paul was taken out of school and put to work. The manager at Carnegie Hall was told to get another usher in his stead; the doorkeeper at the theater was warned not to admit him to the house” (Cather 8). The fantasy fell apart further when the stories he had told his classmates reached the ears of the women of the stock company, who unlike their lavish descriptions from Paul were actually hardworking women supporting their families. Unable to cope with the reality of working for Denny & Carson, he stole the money he was supposed to deposit in the bank to live the life of luxury in New York. Only a person who felt backed into a corner would attempt something so unsound. After his eight days in paradise, he is again backed into a corner by the reality of his middle class upbringing, and the dwindling time he has before his father reaches New York to find him. The final way out for Paul is his suicide, for which an explanation would be “In the end, he fails to find his security, for it was his grandiose “picture making mechanism” that made his life so deardful.” (Saari). With all the securities of his fantasy life finally gone, his mental instability fully comes to light as he jumps in front of the train to end his
The connections between Paul D, Garner, and schoolteacher are pivotal parts of Paul D’s discovery of his new identity. Paul D needed someone to help him find balance in his exploration for manhood and his story isn’t valid without the other characters. Without each individual experience and emotion, a part of that journey disappears with the characteristic. H needs love and acceptance in order to find his manhood. He has the strength to face all parts of himself as his own man when his “tobacco tin” is “blown open” making him people’s “play and prey” (p 258). Humility and composure is a huge part of becoming a man. Morrison tells Paul D’s story with strong details about Garner and schoolteacher to expose the entire culture of slavery and white society.
In conclusion, Willa Carther’s “Paul’s Case” is an interesting glimpse into the world of a young boy, who’s individuality is constantly in conflict with the conformist society that surrounds him. In attempts to escape this reality, Paul loses himself in a fantasy world of art, lies, and thievery. In this attempt to escape, Paul slips into isolation and depression. Carther in this regard is very careful on how she portrays Paul, to brink about some sympathy from the reader as he is simply a troubled young man. In the end, Paul’s individuality and societies refusal of him leads to Paul’s demise. The sympathy Cather creates for Paul leaves one questioning if society simply should have supported Paul’s individuality, instead of letting him slip away. Paul’s death seems to support this theory, as not a single reader would have wished such a cruel ending to the life of a dreamer.
"Paul’s Case." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 1997. 192-209. Short Stories for Students. Gale. Web. 21 Jan. 2010.
Cather, Willa. “Paul’s Case.” Lierature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 11th ed. Longman, 2010. 491-505.
Around the end of the story, Paul decides to run off to New York for a week to finally live his dreams. However, by making his dreams a reality he exposes himself to something he wasn't prepared for, the truth. At first, everything is all Paul ever wanted it be. He is able to finally live life as he sees fit. He spends his money without care, and is able to live up to all his lies. (Although this reaches its climax when Paul meets a young man in the street), "The young man offered to show Paul the night side of the town, and the two boys went out together after dinner, not returning to the hotel until seven o'clock the next morning" (Cather 11). After this, Paul's fake reality falls apart quickly. Faced with the reality that he will have to return home, Paul decides to take his own life. Instead of ending it quickly with a gun, he decides to go a different route, "When the right moment came, he jumped. As he fell, the folly of his haste occurred to him with merciless clearness, the vastness of what he had left undone. There flashed through his brain, clearer than ever before, the blue of Adriatic water, the yellow of Algerian sands. He felt something strike his chest, and that his body was being thrown swiftly through the air, on and on, immeasurably far and fast, while his limbs were gently relaxed. Then, because the picture-making mechanism was crushed, the disturbing visions flashed into black,