Paul's Case by Willa Cather an Analysis of the Mental State of Paul

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Anthony T. McClellan
Paul’s Case by Willa Cather
An Analysis of the Mental State Paul

This paper is an analysis of the main character Paul in the short story Paul’s Case by Willa Cather. In this analysis I will discuss, the conflicts of the story, the mental state of Paul and the issues that led to his suicide, focusing on his struggle with his social class and the loss of his mother at an early stage in his life. Paul’s Case take place in Pittsburgh, Pa. where Paul the main character of the story lives, New York City in which Paul runs away to, and the countryside outside Newark were Paul meets his demise. The author Willa Cather wrote the short story in, omniscient third-person point of view, enabling the narrator to reveal the thoughts of the characters (Cummings, 2012). The time period is sometime between the early and mid-1900’s. In my assessment of the story I believe that Paul’s suicide is the repercussion of lack of education, rebellion against the social norms of the time, and behavior issues caused by the lack of and loss of a mother at an early stage in his life. The story begins with a display of defiance towards his teachers and the superintendent at the school, from which he has just been kicked out of. After being expelled Paul’s father a middle class business man, forces him to return to the school and request to be reinstated. This is where we witness the first signs of Paul’s lack of respect for authority, and were the author gives us insight to Paul’s past and his demeanor as seen by his instructors. His drawing master states: ”I don't really believe that smile of his comes altogether from insolence; the boy is not strong.” “There is something wrong about the fellow." (Paragraph 8) I believe there are two different conflicts in this story, Man vs. Himself which stems from the loss of his mother when Paul was only a few months old, and Man vs. Society which stems from Paul’s vivid imagination which can also be portrayed as delusions from Paul’s obsession with not acquiring wealth but being wealthy. During this time period the economy was changing from one based primarily on agriculture and small manufacturing, to an economy powered by the industrial output of large corporations and industrial business. (The 1900' Education Overview, 2001) In Pittsburgh were the story begins it was steel. Production started in 1875 and by 1911, Pittsburgh was producing steel for half the nation. Some owners and managers of these businesses became rich, but most of the middle-class who worked in these businesses and industries were not getting rich at all. Many local government officials took money from businessmen and others. In exchange for the passing of laws that often helped only the business owners. These laws were usually unfair to working class people, like Paul and his father. This was a time when city governments were often political machines run by bosses who were dishonest and tried to make money from being in office (The Progressive Era, 2012). Social hierarchies in the US were being developed. The rich got richer and the poor stayed poor. American political and educational leaders turned to the nation's schools, seeking their help in meeting the radical new challenges to American society. Within the educational system, order, regularity, and predictability were gained, but only at the expense of individuality and flexibility (The 1900' Education Overview, 2001). Paul’s struggle with society begins here. The author gives us insight to Paul’s opinion of his neighborhood and the lack of indistinguishable differences of the people that reside in it. “It was a highly respectable street, where all the houses were exactly alike, and where businessmen of moderate means begot and reared large families of children, all of whom went to Sabbath school and learned the shorter catechism, and were interested in arithmetic; all...
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