Analysis of Paul's Case

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Analysis of Paul’s Case

“Paul’s Case,” by Willa Cather tells the story of a young boy who is disillusioned by his suburban lifestyle. A constant nuisance to his teacher’s, Paul belittles the world around him with a sort of arrogance. He sees his life as gray and ubearably plain; he only takes comfort in the luxuries of the world as is evident when he is dressing for his job ushering at the theatre; he was “always considerably excited while be dressed”. There, Paul is no longer the suburban boy from a lackluster life; there he is at ease, at home. This work exemplifies short fiction in that the elements work well together, Paul’s situation or, for the sake of the story, his case is plausible and the story bears new insight at each read. By using these elements, Cather evokes the disillusionment with sameness that any reader has undoubtedly felt.

Cather uses setting irony as a dominant element in this story. The story is introduced with a meeting with Paul and his teacher’s, who have a certain contempt for his arrogant nature. It becomes evident that Paul has a similar contempt for his teacher’s and repeatedly belittles and condescends them. He wants everyone to see him as superior, he appears “suave” and is always smiling, but his tattered clothes and nervous habits tell a different story. It becomes clear that his teacher’s take a sort of pity on him, and instead of seeing him as the respectful man Paul sees himself, one teacher comments, “The boy is not strong, for one thing. I happen to know that he was born in Colorado, only a few months before his mother died out there of a long illness. There is something wrong about the fellow." The irony of Paul’s situation is further emphasized in his view of Cordelia Street, the street on which his home resides. The author comments is “perfectly respectable”, but Paul sees it as wretched. His only solace is in the velvet carpets and the “cracked orchestra” of the theatre, “It was very much as though these were a...
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