Paul's Case

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Laura Clauser
9/18/2008
Lit 42
The Emotional Place of “Paul’s Case”

The main character, a challenging adolescent boy named Paul, has an almost inexplicable ability at irritating every person he comes in contact with. He finds his education trivial, a sense of superiority towards his peers, and a general distaste for everything in his suburban neighborhood on Cordelia Street. At first glance, Paul appears to be suffering from the typical adolescent angst. However, his actions and frame of mind are better defined by Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPR). Paul demonstrates several symptoms of this mental illness such as, “preoccupation with fantasies that focus on unlimited success, power, intelligence, beauty or love, the belief that he or she is “special” and unique, and can only be understood by other special people, envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her, and arrogant behavior and/or attitude” (Cleveland Clinic). In this paper, I will focus on how Paul’s character demonstrates certain symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, specifically the preoccupation with fantasies that focus on unlimited success, power, intelligence, beauty or love, the belief that he or she is “special” and unique, and can only be understood by other special people, and his arrogant behavior and attitude in relation to his love for New York and his hate for Pittsburg.

Paul feels as if he is trapped in a suburban world that is too ordinary and plain, which is no surprise since Cather’s characters generally are “lonesome individuals who repeatedly find themselves suffocated by normative life” (Herring). He even goes so far to describe his feelings while returning to his home with “a shudder of loathing…he felt the waters close above his head” (Cather 215). This so strongly worded description of Paul’s perception of Cordelia Street provides the framework for the conflicting issues of Paul’s emotional bipolar feelings between Pittsburg and...
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