2 April 2012
Simply a Bad Case
Is the outcome of our lives predetermined before we are born or by the environment in which we are born into or is it determined by our own free will? “These are some of the many questions that plague humanity, the questions that give philosophers, sociologists, scientists, and writers material with which to work” (Hicks). In the short story Paul’s Case: A Study in Temperament, Willa Cather uses these questions to tell of a boy, Paul, whom his peers do all they can to help; yet, their attempts do not work because he simply struggles from a bad case of petty lying and borderline narcissism. Often the traits associated with narcissism are said to be developed from the way parents raise their children (Narcissists). In Paul’s instance his father raised him as well as he could. Paul used his own free will to determine the outcome of his life.
Paul is a strange young man, often leaving his peers confused about his actions and his motives. The strangeness is best depicted by Paul’s physical appearance, “his master had noted with amazement what a white, blue-veined face it was; drawn and wrinkled like an old man's about the eyes, the lips twitching even in his sleep…” (Cather). Also he is described in another instance as displaying the characteristics of being addicted to the drug belladonna. Paul has no care for his physical appearance at school; in fact, he does not even care to be at school, and he did not try to hide his feelings. Paul tells his classmates how appreciated he is elsewhere and fills them with wonderful stories of his experiences at Carnegie Hall. Often when Paul runs out of stories, he comes up with new lies and excuses for when he cannot fulfill the lies. Cather describes Paul’s school life by stating: Matters went steadily worse with Paul at school. In the itch to let his instructors know how heartily he despised them and their homilies, and how thoroughly he was...