Willa Cather’s short story Paul’s case is an example of how an individual’s society, environment, and culture can affect the person psychologically and mentally. The beginning of the story provides an example of how Paul’s presence is felt around other people, “In one way and another, he had made all his teachers, men, and women alike, conscious of the same feeling of physical aversion” (195). An analysis of the story’s conflict and characters will inform you more about Paul and his story.
The only thing that appears meaningful and bright in the life of the protagonist, Paul, is letting the sounds of symphony soothe him gently to a euphoric feeling, “the rest [is] but a sleep and a forgetting” (201). Paul feels alienated from society and doesn’t seem to have any real friends. Shortly after Paul was born his mother died, this left him with a father who he loathes and doesn’t have a positive relationship with. Paul feels that he won’t live up to his father’s expectations in life which contributes to his depression. Despite all these worries, Paul loves his job as an usher at Carnegie Hall so he can listen to the theatre music and admire the wonderful art gallery.
Cordelia Street and Pittsburgh is the bearer of all the “ugliness in the world” (208). Paul despises his home on Cordelia Street and refuses to show up on night and rather sleep in the basement, imagining his father shooting him mistakenly for a burglar. This provides evidence of how Paul would rather sleep in the cold, dark basement than see his father and sleep in a comfortable bed. Both the Pittsburg society and his father hold Paul back from who he really is. “His experience of life elsewhere was so full of Sabbath-school pictures, petty economics, and wholesome advice as to how to succeed in life” (201). Cather also hints Paul is gay which makes since for his exclusion in society, the early 1900s was also not a time that welcomed or comforted gays, but made them rather confused and felt...
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