The Literary Element of Symbolism
Several examples of symbolism are represented in Cather’s story. For example, Paul often wears a red carnation on his shirt. These flowers represent Paul himself. Early in the story Paul wears a red carnation when he talks with his teachers. They see this as him being rebellious, and they would be correct in their assumption. We see the flowers again at the end of the story. By this time the weather is cold and Paul’s flowers have died. Also, Paul buries the flower in the ground before he jumps in front of the train. This is meant to briefly foreshadow that he is going to kill himself. Cather’s use of color is probably the strongest symbol in the story. Its affect on the mood of the characters is evident as well. We connect the color yellow with the fact that Paul cannot stand his home. He doesn’t like to think of returning to his room and staring at the yellow wallpaper. Later in the story, when Paul is at the hotel, he associates the color red to the man at the desk. He has a red face and a red mouth which are meant to give us a window into his former life. As in many stories, rich and wealthy people are often found wearing the color purple. He also orders purple flowers for his room at the hotel to feed his lie about being rich himself. Paul is represented by the colors blue and white. He obviously has some emotional issues and these show in his pale face. On the opposite end of the spectrum, white can be a positive color for him. Snow is often present when he is happy. Blue is much more popular than white in the story. The veins on Paul’s face are blue. Paul obsesses over the blue Venetian and the blue Rico, and listens to the Blue Danube. He also mentions a blue sea that he wants to be carried into. Paul talks about the theater being a “bit of blue-and-white Mediterranean shore,” and we’re also told he pictures the sea before he gets hit by the train. Food is also a popular symbol throughout “Paul’s Case.” The...
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