Pauls case by willa cather summary

5.09  ·  3,906 ratings  ·  521 reviews
pauls case by willa cather summary

Pauls Case by Willa Cather

Pauls Case is a short story and probably not as famous as some of Willa Cathers other writings, but it stuck out to me because I could understand the character and his rebellious nature against the society that was trying to force him do things that would make him become something that he despised. His teachers, as well as his father, wanted him to act “normal” and their versions of normal would have turned him into a man that grew up, married, had kids, and worked for the rest of his life, never seeing the world outside of his town. His rebelliousness was to the point of forcing hatred from his teachers, who then felt horribly for hating a pupil. They just didnt understand that he didnt want be like them and nothing they did was going to change that. He wanted to be his own person, not someone that was molded by his teachers and his father.
Pauls Case is the tragic story of a young boy who was just a little different than the other boys his age. He loved colorful, beautiful things, he enjoyed the theater as well as music, and he also wanted to travel. While the other kids were rather tame and “dull” by Pauls standards, he wanted to be something more. He wished to live the actors and singers that he saw at the theater. He wanted to see new places and people. He wanted to go to parties and socialize with who he viewed as important people. That is why he was always dropping the names of the actors he knew from working at the theater. I feel that this is a story of a boy who wants to be different than those around him in any way that he can. He disapproves of the way that they live and wants something different for himself even if that means that he will have to kill himself in order to not be like them. This is why he does everything that he can think of in order to distance himself from the lifestyle of the town. Including stealing money and physically running away from the town. He just wants to be somewhere else where he can become who he wants to be.
I find it interesting that Pauls father wants him to be like the young man whom I see as a man who “settled” and never really went for anything or took any risks in his life. A guy who married an older woman who was the first woman who came along, he got an all right job, and had four kids. Yet, this guy always talks about his boss who was on vacation on his yacht enjoying the world. The boss was probably someone who had taken a few chances in life and had come out on top. He would be the person that I would be telling my son to try to be more like because I would like my son to have the best. Just makes sense. This is what Paul really wanted to do anyway, he just doesnt seem sure how to reach that goal.
When Paul runs away to New York he begins to do all of the things that he has always wanted to do. He wears nice clothes around town trying to fit himself to the person he sees himself as. He goes to parties and meets people who are very different from the boring folk back home. He felt that these were the people he wanted to be. He believed that he was where he belonged. Paul felt that he had always been meant for this and that he should have never been in the dull town that he was from in the first place. This quote from the story best describes how he felt:

“This was what all the world was fighting for, he reflected; this was what all the struggle was about. He doubted the reality of his past. Had he ever known a place called Cordelia Street, a place where fagged looking business men boarded the early car? Mere rivets in a machine they seemed to Paul,−−sickening men, with combings of childrens hair always hanging to their coats, and the smell of cooking in their clothes. Cordelia Street−−Ah, that belonged to another time and country! Had he not always been thus, had he not sat here night after night, from as far back as he could remember, looking pensively over just such shimmering textures, and slowly twirling the stem of a glass like this one between his thumb and middle finger? He rather thought he had.”

While Paul is not the perfect model of a human being, I believe that Cather wants people to try to be little more like Paul in that we strive to be better than what other people want us to be and also try not to let those people tell us who we are and what we should do with our lives. (Dont stand in front of a train). I agree and I think that no one should allow themselves to forced to be someone they are not. Paul is a character who is constantly pushed by others into doing what they want and he bravely decided to get away from that and try somewhere else to be what he wanted. The means of getting there, however, were tragic.
File Name: pauls case by willa cather
Size: 64235 Kb
Published 30.05.2019

Paul's Case Willa Sibert Cather Audiobook Short Story

These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community. In spite of the fact that his grades were not good enough to consider him a diligent student, Paul had never done anything particularly terrible to earn suspension. It was his obvious, though silent, disgust towards the school stuff that irked the teachers even more than his careless attitude.
Willa Cather

Paul's Case: A Study in Temperament

You know how looking at a math problem similar to the one you're stuck on can help you get unstuck? Reading example essays works the same way! Read our Academic Honor Code for more information on how to use and how not to use our library. Essays may be lightly modified for readability or to protect the anonymity of contributors, but we do not edit essay examples prior to publication. And nope, we don't source our examples from our editing service!

Paul has been suspended from his high school in Pittsburgh. He is dressed in clothes that are simultaneously shabby and debonair. The faculty members have a difficult time articulating their true feelings about Paul. Deep down, they believe that Paul loathes, feels contempt for, and is repulsed by them. They lash out at Paul, but he betrays no emotion.

Paul, tall and thin with a red carnation in his button-hole, listens to it all with a typically defiantly smile, though his hands are slightly shaking. Full of nervous energy, Paul races up and down the aisles, only temporarily stymied by the arrival of his English teacher to the show. After the show he begins to feel depressed and irritable, and rather than returning home he follows the soloist to the Schenley a hotel , and gazes longingly through the windows into the luxurious interior. Finally, he takes the streetcar home to the respectable, middle-class Cordelia Street. It is strongly implied, here and repeatedly throughout the story, that Paul is gay. It is also strongly implied that Edwards is gay, and has taken Paul under his wing though the nature of their relationship remains ambiguous. Paul feels even worse, however, when he returns to the schoolroom from such escapes.

Paul has been suspended from his high school in Pittsburgh. The red carnation he wears in his buttonhole particularly offends the faculty members, who think the flower sums up Paul’s flippant attitude. Paul goes straight to Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh, where he works as an usher.
childrens books ages 3 5

Paul's Case Summary

For many years "Paul's Case" was the only one of her stories that Cather allowed to be anthologized. Around the turn of the century, Pittsburgh was an industrial center with a successful class of business leaders. According to Cather's story, these leaders were able to manage their companies while they were in Europe. New York City was known to be a place that one can escape to. The descriptions of New York City contrast the descriptions of Paul's home, Pittsburgh , which he despises. Paul, a Pittsburgh high school student, is frustrated with his middle-class life.

We open in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, steel capital of the world. Paul is getting the once-over by a panel of angry teachers. They're trying to decide whether to let him back in school, and their mood is not improved by the saucy red carnation he's tucked into his buttonhole. After they grudgingly agree to re-admit him—with Paul being like, thanks, but this is not a party I really want to be invited to—Paul heads off to the Carnegie Music Hall for his job as an usher. Music, art, and a snazzy uniform: It's the perfect outlet for an aspirational kid like Paul. When the concert is over, Paul doesn't want to go home.

Genre: Short Story. This short story was written by Willa Cather around when she was living in Pittsburgh; it is the only one of her stories with that city as a background. During her time there she taught in a high school and she said the story was based on experience with two boys in her classes. It also has connections to her own background of growing up in a small town in Nebraska where she hungered for a broader life experience. Paul, a sensitive high school student, felt very frustrated with his home life and his family's expectations that he would grow up to work in a factory or the steel mills as his father and most of his neighbors did. He was not close to anyone in his family and had no neighborhood or school friends.


  1. Thomas S. says:

    Paul’s Case Summary from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *