Paul's Case

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate March 2001

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"Paul's Case," by Willa Cather, is the story of a young boy whose dreams are broader than the horizons of his dingy Pittsburgh home. A teenager living in a fairly poor neighborhood, Paul is frequently in trouble at school because of his restless spirit and his feelings of aversion towards the normal, boring people he must face each day. Paul's one source of true joy is his position as an usher at Carnegie Hall, where he can enjoy not only the symphonies, but also the spectacle of "fine people and gay colors" that fills the audience. The Schenley, a grand hotel across the street from Carnegie Hall, symbolizes for Paul all luxuries and freedom from cares; he believes that, if only he could pass through its doors, his worries would be over and he would never have to face the dull everyday world again. As Paul's impatience with home and school grows, his behavior at school becomes increasingly problematic, and eventually he is taken out of school and put to work in just the sort of drab position he has always dreaded.

What he considers his greatest opportunity comes when he is charged with taking the company's deposit to the bank; without hesitation, he takes the money and escapes to New York. There he lives the life of his dreams for only a few days; at the end of this period, his money is spent and he departs. Unable to cope with the idea of returning to Pittsburgh, he throws himself in front of a train and ends his life. This story affects the reader deeply due to its features of images, setting, and plot.

The vivid imagery in Cather's story intensifies the reader's experience. The night that Paul comes home late from Carnegie Hall, the reader is...