Both Nadine Gordimer's "The Defeated" and Willa Cather's "Paul Case" are about characters who dread the life they see around them. Fearing this outcome, they strive desperately to put as much space as possible between their present circumstances and their future dreams.
Miriam and Paul use similar defense mechanisms to deal with the realities in which they live. This mechanism is denial. On her birthday, instead of having a party in her lowly home,
Just sitting there and letting them swarm, and looking out of herself as if to say: What ants? What ants are you talking about?" (485) This is a perfect metaphor for living a life of denial.
Paul, too, leads a life of denial. This is most obvious in the opening school interrogation sequence. His sporting a red carnation, acting suave and carefree, lying to his teachers so they will hear what he thinks they want to hear is all ingrained in his overall need to deny his current station in life. Paul loves the artificial and is playing a part, denying the reality of the situation.
During certain portions of their stories, both