Paul's Case

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Paul's Case, by Willa Cather, is about an insolent teenage boy who lives completely in a fantasy world. Some may say that a little fantasy never hurt anyone, but Paul takes his dreaming over the line. In Paul's mind, something registers as either extraordinary or wretched, and never is there any medium. This lack of an ability to comprehend "reality" is exactly what separates Paul from any other "normal" teenager.

Paul lives on Cordelia Street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with his father and sisters. But in no way does Paul find contentment in this realm of his existence. Upon returning from work, Paul describes his "hopeless feeling of sinking back forever into ugliness and commonness," and not wanting to return into the "monotony in which they lived." When Paul leaves the house on Sunday evening, after spending the day at home with his family, he speaks of "shaking off the lethargy of two deadening days, and [beginning] to live again." At school, Paul's anguish is once again the subject of most of his thoughts. He "found the schoolroom more than ever repulsive." He doesn't want his fellow classmates to think that he "took these people (his teachers) seriously," so he repeatedly tells them "the most incredible stories," like how he is "going to Naples, to California, to Egypt." In contrast to all these cynical views of his home life and school, Paul has some places where he goes in which he feels completely delighted and at ease.

Paul works at Carnegie Hall as a "model usher" who is always "gracious and smiling." While at work, Paul is always "vivacious and animated," and all the people "thought him a charming boy." Once the show started, he "felt a sudden zest of life," and is known to "lose himself" in the show. The theatre is in many ways Paul's sanctuary, and when "they shut him out of the theatre and concert hall," he decides to run off to New York. Once he arrives in New York, Paul is able to buy exquisite clothes, eat the best...
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