“Paul’s Case” written by Willa Cather not only offers an entertaining read with content which at first glance can come off as merely a story, but when read closely it becomes evident that there are substantial themes being explored through Cather’s protagonist, Paul, along with his predicament. Paul, a young boy living on Cordelia Street, a place that quite inordinately contradicts his frequent exotic fantasies, sets course toward tragedy when he begins to realize he can no longer remain within the rigid dimensions set by his community’s perception of social norms. Set in a Pittsburg town made up of cookie cutter homes, and where the children attend Sabbath school on a regular basis, Paul stands out with great conspicuity. One cannot help but ask, why? What makes Paul so different? The purpose of this essay is to explore varying critiques of Cather’s work in order to gain a better understanding of the purpose of the story. According to literary critics such as John P. Anders, Larry Rubin, and Jane Nardin, to name a few, Paul’s case can be directly associated with his presumed homosexuality. Even further, each critic claims Cather’s potential homosexuality among several other influences manifest through the text.
John P. Anders, author of Willa Cather’s Sexual Aesthetics and the Male Homosexual Literary Tradition, digs deep into several of Willa Cather’s novels and pulls sources from other critiques in support of his ideas regarding Cather’s “indirect articulation of homosexuality” (Anders 53) through a manner of aesthetics in a subsection he titled “Intimations of Homosexuality.” Anders writes [b]y her own admission a practitioner of simplicity in art, Miss Cather affords the pleasures of uninvolved narration and yet embroiders and augments her stories with subtle layers of related meanings. Gradually, we felt that we were discovering a richness of aesthetic and idea in her novels which no single or superficial reading could possibly reveal (49). As an...
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