Willa Carter’s Paul’s Case suggests that ambitious goals tend collapse in the confrontation of reality when shortcuts are made. In the city of Pittsburgh, where the new industrial age brings hard work and honest livings, Paul feels surrounded by the dull life that lay before him. With his artistic spirit and eagerness to live more extravagantly, instead of working towards that dream by finishing school and earning his way to the top, he makes a foolish decision and loses everything.
In 1905, Pittsburgh was a booming industrial powerhouse that represented hard work; it was a city of workers, a city about making money rather than spending it. Paul's community is dominated by those who value hard, self-sustaining work, above all else. Paul's father is always holding up examples that Paul might one day follow. These are the men who find a steady job, settle down, and start a family. In this drive for success and family, there is no room for the artistic. This success-driven culture dominates Paul's existence, impressing itself upon much of what he sees. Paul is living what he considers to be a very mundane life on Cordelia Street. Although “It was a highly respectable street…,” (199) Paul felt trapped there, wanting to live the extravagant life without doing what was necessary to achieve his dreams. He despised what his street represented (hard work/earnest living) that he “never went up Cordelia Street without a shudder of loathing” (199). Pittsburgh represents the starting point of Paul’s dream, a foundation of work and success and the road between Pittsburgh and New York City is the path he must take to get to his end destination of the high life in New York City.
Through lies and crime, he gains access to what he considers his real home, the New York City high life. Back in Pittsburgh, Paul often stood outside of the Schenley dreaming of being inside the hotel, “wonder[ing] where he were destined always to shiver in the black night outside,...
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