Paul's Case Literary Analysis

Stephanie Lehman

Point of View

The story begins from the point of view of the teachers in order to convey the misbehaving side of Paul.This makes the reader begin the story believing that Paul deserves any poor treatment that the teachers force on him. The author then has a narrator tell the story in order to show all of the sides of Paul. This makes the reader sympathize with him since they now understand why he acts the way he does. The contrast between the two allows one to see the two different personalities of Paul from when he's surrounded by the fanciful life and when he's surrounded by the norm of society. This demonstrates how much the music and fancy life means to Paul and why he is willing to sacrifice everything to achieve it. All of this shows how one cannot be happy when comparing your life to lives of others.The picture of the shadow demonstrates this device because the narrator is not an actual character in the story, but rather an observer. The shadow shows that it is not an actual person there but just a figure watching over Paul's life.


The author begins to develop the character as a boy that doesn't care about school or anything that doesn't involve the music or fanciful life that he adores. This develops him into an obsessive character who refuses to participate in life outside of his dream. He does not see the point of living if he cannot live the way that he desires. This adds to the theme of people never being truly happy when they compare their lives to others because Paul only dreams of living the fancy life and views his life as unacceptable. In the end of the story, he kills himself because he knows that the life that he had desired for so long is about to be taken away from him and he cannot stand the thought of that. This confirms the idea that the character will not live if he cannot live how he wishes. His one view on the definition of happiness in life leads to his demise. The picture of the music notes demonstrates this device because all that Paul cared about was music. He did not want to live if that kind of lifestyle was not the way he was living. The music notes represent that part of Paul's life and how it ultimately led to his demise.


The setting of the story constantly changes throughout, introducing different parts of Paul at each new setting. It begins at the school, demonstrating the apathetic side of Paul toward every aspect of his life besides music. It then shifts to Carnegie Hall so that the readers can see why Paul is the way that he is and the thing that means the most to him. Then, at Cordelia Street, you begin to understand the struggling family aspect of Paul's life and how negatively he views the ones that love him the most. Finally, in New York, the final piece of the puzzle is put together when you can see how happy he is when he is living the lifestyle that he has always desired. All of these different settings allow you to put the pieces of Paul together, finally ending with the full picture of who he is. This demonstrates the theme of his idea that life is only good when you're living a certain way. He only thrived in the music filled, fancy environments and was basically nonfunctional in the more poor sections of his life. The picture of the New York skyline displays the theme through the idea that Paul's life was only satisfying in this area. It depicts the dream life for him, as well as the life that others were living that made him so unhappy when his life wasn't like that.


The main symbol that is used in this story is the carnation. It represents the music and the dream life that Paul wanted so badly. At the end of the story, Paul buries this carnation in the cold snow, symbolizing the death of the life that he desired. Once he knows that his father is searching for him, he knows that there is no way that he can get away with living in his current state of bliss. This results in him killing himself because he could not stand the thought of going back to living the way he was before. When he buries the carnation in the snow, he buries the dream of living the musical life that he has always wanted. The demonstrates the theme that people are never truly happy when they compare their lives to others because Paul didn't even see the point in living when he could not live the like the others. He chose to kill himself rather than to return to the normal life that awaited him. The picture of the carnation conveys this device because it was the key symbol used throughout the story.


The theme of the story is that people are never truly happy when they compare their lives to others. Someone else is always going to have nicer things than you. When you spend all of your time comparing your life to others, you waste away all of the positive things that your life has to offer. Paul took this to the extreme and chose to take his own life when he could not live the way that he desired. He was never content with his life and refused to live unless he was living the way that he wanted to. He could never focus on all of the good things in his life because he was constantly comparing it to the lives of others. This theme is demonstrated throughout the story by Paul's choices and his apathy toward every aspect in his life that did not involve music or some portion of the fancy life that he desired. The picture of money displays this theme because Paul was always so focused on living the fancy life where people always had what they wanted, obviously because they had a lot of money. Since he could only think about money and the fancy life that he desired, he was so miserable with the thought of losing it that he chose to take his own life. This picture of money shows the fancy life that he could never fully achieve, leading to his suicide.


  1. Beauty Bloom Blossom Carnation Colorful. Digital image. N.p., 02 Mar. 2012. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.Hans.
  2. Shadow Shadow Play Man Person. Digital image. N.p., 01 Dec. 2010. Web. 8 Feb. 2013. Humana.
  3. Bro United States New York NYC City Light Bridge. Digital image. N.p., 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.
  4. Money Cash Finance Business Wealth. Digital image. N.p., 01 Mar. 2012. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.
  5. Music Two Note Recreation Double Musical Notes. Digital image. N.p., 05 Apr. 2012. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.