Еssay on Willa Cather’s “Paul’s Case”

  1. Introduction.

“Paul’s Case” is the tale of a young boy’s struggle for a better life. Paul admires the wealth of the theater, the clothes, the perfumes, the lights, the flowers, and the champagne. When he realizes he cannot have all these things, he throws his life away. The author tries to show that, by concentrating on what he could not have.



  1. Analysis of Willa Cather’s “Paul’s Case”.

In her short story Willa Cather gives many clues that show how much Paul dreamed of leaving town. For example, he was moved by the Venetian scenes and streets of Paris depicted in the picture gallery. He adores to listen to his father speak of “palaces in Venice, yachts on the Mediterranean, and high play at Monte Carlo” (202). By fantasizing about being somewhere he was not all the time, Paul could not live where he was.

In the story, flowers are used to symbolize Paul’s situation. Once he wears the red carnation to the meeting with his teachers who consider it to be “scandalous” (195-196). Paul purposely wears the carnation though he knows it is unsuitable – it is his talisman and it makes him a more important person. The flower transforms him into someone more powerful. By concentrating on being someone he was not, Paul could not accept himself as he really was.

Another symbolic moment occurred in New York where it is snowing. Even in the cold weather, there are gardens where flowers are blooming under glass cases. Paul considers them to be much more beautiful and attractive growing unnaturally. He believes “the natural nearly always wore the guise of ugliness” and that “a certain element of artificiality seemed necessary in beauty” (203). Paul can be compared with those flowers, taken from his natural environment to grow in an artificial one.

One more moment that shows the symbolic meaning of the flower happens when Paul is walking home at the end of the story. He notices that the flowers in his coat were faded with the cold and their red splendor is over. He realizes that all the flowers he had seen in the glass cases that first night must have faded as well.

While analyzing, it becomes obvious that the condition of the carnations is directly related to Paul’s state. He begins to “fade” as the flowers do, and also like the flowers, his splendor is over.

Paul stresses several times in the story that wallowing in the atmosphere of luxury is “the only thing that could be called living at all” (198). He calls these times to be “orgies of living,” so when he realizes he cannot afford that life, he feels that he cannot live at all (200). Paul’s unhealthy desire for a life of luxury drives him to think that his ordinary life is not worthy of existence.



  1. Conclusion.

The paper briefly analyses Willa Cather’s short story “Paul’s Case”. The author skillfully retells a story of a young boy’s struggle for a better life. Symbols as literary techniques that Cather uses in the story are thoroughly analyzed in the paper.

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