A Case for Paul
Society today is quick to point fingers and cast stones. It is a demanding creature, which will brutalize those that do not live up to its expectations. If a person is excessively different, people will drive him or her further away or cast him or her aside entirely because society has difficulty dealing with what it does not understand. The problem with this extreme reaction to difference is that acceptance is exceedingly important in every individual's life. This acceptance from parents, teachers and peers plays a major role in forming who a person becomes or how they see and feel about themselves. If people would learn to engage and not judge perhaps, humanity could help those with psychological or emotional problems before it is too late.
There have been many theories as to what was wrong with the protagonist, Paul, in Willa Cather's short story "Paul's Case". In most analyses, Paul is put under a literary microscope and is poked and prodded until he fits into one category or another. Rob Saari states in his analysis of the story that "Paul suffers from . . . 'narcissistic personality disorder'" (), and Sherry Crabtree puts forward the idea that he is homosexual (). These critics have missed the point; the focus should not be on Paul, but the people around him. Who has ever wondered why no one tried to understand Paul? Cather explores how society's cruel dismissal of Paul, for being unusual, led to his aberrant behavior and ultimate suicide in "Paul's Case".
Cather sets a definite separatist attitude from her antagonists from the beginning of her story. We are introduced to Paul through the eyes of his principal and teachers as he comes to ask their permission to return to...