Conformity vs. Individuality

Topics: Lie, Willa Cather, Boy Pages: 4 (1431 words) Published: March 24, 2005
"Conformity versus individuality"
Willa Cather's "Paul's Case," displays the conflict between conformity and individuality through the main character, Paul. On a number of occasions, Paul is forced to lie and steal to escape the conformists who wish to control him and stifle his unique imagination. However, his lying, stealing, and attempts to escape the conformists, only force Paul into isolation, depression, and feeling a sense of shame for his individuality. Throughout the story one might see Cather's constant contrast of individuality versus conformity, as well as Paul's lying and stealing. Cather seems to draw the conclusion that extreme individuals, much like Paul are simply misunderstood, and not offered the acceptance they desire from conformist society.

One way Cather contrasts individuality and conformity is through detailed descriptions of Paul's character: Paul's appearance, Paul's unusual mannerisms, and Paul's open criticisms of conformity. Collectively, these three characteristics assert Paul's individuality. Paul's appearance is described in detail at the beginning of the story and provides the foundation of his individuality: "Paul was tall for his age and very thin, with high, cramped shoulders and a narrow chest"(Pg. 1). One only needs to reach the second paragraph of the story and realize Paul does not fit in, which can be accredited to Cather's careful word choice "for his age." Most young individuals, specifically in Paul's teenage age bracket, will struggle for acceptance from their peers; however it appears that Paul makes little effort in this regard. Paul's unusual mannerisms are also worthy of analysis, and aid in creating a mental picture of this unusual young man. Cather uses Paul's meeting with the faculty of his educational facility to convey the irritating and intimidating qualities of his mannerisms. She writes, "His teachers felt this afternoon that his whole attitude was symbolized by his shrug and his flippantly red...
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