Symbolic Analysis on Paul's Case

Topics: Paul of Tarsus, Paul is dead Pages: 12 (4925 words) Published: November 1, 2005
Cather writes the short story "Paul's Case" in third person omniscient. Cather mainly focuses on Paul's point of view, but the thoughts and feelings of the teachers were very important in understanding Paul. Most people do not see their own faults and habits, so the teachers' point of view was essential. Paul hates his whole life and is extremely depressed about his current situation. Everything that Paul experiences that is beyond his immediate daily life is so heavenly and extraordinarily beautiful to him. None of Paul's teachers care for him or his roguish behavior, but they also express that they don't fully comprehend Paul making them feel a little guilty for being so hard on him. The thoughts Paul had before he died weren't the stereotypical flashes of good memories, he thought about all the things he should have done and wished he had done. Cather shows that life is precious and most people have a hard time appreciating the good things in life until they reach their end. Cather also expresses the horrific regret of committing suicide even in the worst mental states.

As Paul enters the faculty room, he tries to deceive the teachers by dressing up for the interrogation just as criminals dress for trial. His clothes were a "trifle outgrown,… his overcoat was frayed and worn," which shows that the suit does not fit him. He symbolizes a past life which he still holds on to. He entered the room "suave and smiling" showing that Paul thinks he looks good in his outfit. The opal pin and the red carnation are Paul's attempts increase his attractiveness and classiness. They distract the teachers from the imperfections on his jacket, which symbolizes the aspect that Paul hates about himself. Throughout the story, Paul is trying to cover up who he really is by lying to his dad, teachers, and the rest of world. Paul thinks lying is "indispensable for overcoming friction." When Paul goes to New York, he feels relieved that he no longer has to lie to anyone because he is in a completely different world than his own. Actually, Paul is lying throughout his week stay because he is playing the role of an accomplished, wealthy individual, which is not the true Paul. The accomplished, wealthy individual disappeared when Paul spent all the money he stole. The faculty feels that the red carnation is "not properly significant of the contrite spirit befitting a boy under the ban of suspension." This shows that the teachers recognize that Paul is trying to hide his real self. The teachers make another comparison with the "scandalous" and "flippantly" red carnation when Paul bows as he exits the faculty room. The teachers feel that the red carnation is a deceiving distraction from Paul's true nature and it is just another representation Paul's many faces. The drawing master describes him as "haunted," since he maintained a "set smile [that] did not once desert him" even though he was being yelled at, a scene described by one of the teachers as a "miserable cat set at bay by a ring of tormentors." The set smile, the "contemptuous and irritating" eyebrows are part of mask that Paul puts on. His facial features represent lifelessness and static movement. These two characteristics personify Paul in that he feels as if he is not going anywhere and that he doesn't have any acceleration. Paul runs down the hill whistling the soldier's chorus from Faust after leaving school feeling very light-hearted. This positive reference to the Faust opera shows a similarity between Paul and Faust. Faust felt that although he devoted his whole life to the pursuit of knowledge, he still had gone nowhere. In the opera, Faust turns to black magic and considers suicide. Paul and Faust both feel that if they haven't achieved anything worthy then they might as well kill themselves. Paul has specific behaviors in each of his classes. In one he habitually covers his eyes with his hands throughout the class, in another he just stares out the window, and in...
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