Paul's Case

Presentation

Point of View

The story initially follows Paul from a third person perspective through the teachers point of view, which then changes into an omniscient point of view through Paul's eyes by paragraph 11.

Through this perspective, we watch through the eyes of the crucial characters in this story, allowing us to learn who Paul exactly is. We learn just how alone, obsessed, and unrealistic he is by his own nature as the story progresses, and glean from his surroundings the information needed to supplement our understanding of this. The narrator occasionally glances into the minds of other characters in the story in order to show us how they view Paul, such as how Paul's teachers held a theory that his "imagination had been perverted by garish fiction," then telling us of how Paul barely ever read at all, since he would much rather listen to music than read. This is just one example of the point of view that gives us a greater understanding into Paul's character, and how his perceptions, such as of art, tie into the major themes of the story.
The picture to the right represents "following," which is usually what a third-person narrator does.

Characterization

Paul is a obsessed with art and money. His belief that art is a world of perfect beauty allows him to escape from the world and watch it from afar. He longs to escape from the world, viewing it as unfair, and that he deserves more than his bland and uneventful life. This brings him to frequently lie about himself to others to either impress those around him, or to indulge in his fantasies of escaping reality.

Paul believes that he is superior to those around him, viewing everyone else with contempt for their apparent narrow-mindedness. This belief of him being above everyone else gives him the feeling that he is destined to obtain great wealth and fame. He believes that he should be a great and wealthy man, dreaming of all the exploits a rich man makes in his career, but never realizes the hard work it takes to get there. He believes that he deserves great fame in fortune without ever putting in the effort to obtain it.

Paul is incredibly selfish, which is yet another flaw in his character brought on his beliefs of self-superiority and that the world is wrongly unkind to him. This is yet another example of a fatal flaw in his character that leads to his ultimate demise by his own hands.

Paul's eventual suicide is the culmination of all the sufferings and unhappiness he feels throughout his life. We are told of a darkness that exists within Paul, and of the many disturbing habits of his that support this claim, such as when Paul would fantasize of him being shot by his father for being mistaken as a burglar, and even more disturbingly that his father would not regret it. This darkness and all his character flaws lead to his decision of ending his own life by jumping in front of a passing train, bringing him to the oblivion he had for so long desired.
The picture to the right shows a lust for money, representing Paul's greed and his misconception that money is the solution to every problem in life, and the thing he so rightly deserves to earn without ever working for it.

Setting

The story takes place in the late fall and early winter during the early 1900s, starting out in Pittsburgh then moving to New Jersey, New York, and a small town outside Newark, where he finally commits suicide.
Paul frequently dreamed of going to New York, a place where, in his mind, art is everywhere, and he would be able to indulge in his addiction for art, allowing him to become truly happy as he spends great fortunes of the money he so rightfully deserves on a lavish lifestyle suited for the king he believes that he is destined to become. When he finally journeys to New York, he instead becomes broke and is forced to return without the experience that he believed the city would offer him. Even though his experience in New York was nothing like he dreamed it would be, Paul still learns nothing of his flaws. On the morning of his suicide, he tells himself that "money was everything," meaning that he still believes that being wealthy would solve all of his problems, and realizing nothing of the true nature of what it takes and means to be wealthy.

The picture to the right is of New York, the place he viewed as the fantasy-land of his dreams.

Symbolism

The red carnation, shown to the right, is the symbol of Paul's character. The adults he meets throughout the story view it as an act of defiance toward the world. The fact that the carnation is red shows that Paul believes that he stands out from the world around him, and how he views himself as being superior to everyone else. When Paul eventually buries a red carnation in the white, bland snow after it has wilted in the cold, this foreshadows Paul's upcoming act of suicide by jumping in front of a locomotive.

Theme

There are two main themes within Paul's Case. The first is Paul's misconception that money can solve all the problems in his life, and that he shouldn't have to work to obtain the wealth he feels that he deserves. The other major theme is Paul's addiction to art, with him viewing it as a quick fix, and that he never delves deep into the more intellectual aspects of art. He instead merely gains shallow, momentary happiness from watching plays and listening to music. Paul does not even truly appreciate the art he observes. He instead relishes in the feelings it unleashes in him. To Paul, art is merely a drug. It allows him to escape from the world without ever having to contemplate its true meaning, and never having to think about the significance it holds. This is shown when we are told that Paul never actually reads, because he believes that it takes too long to gain pleasure from the slow process of reading a book. This shallow view of art is one characteristic of Paul's impulsive and self-destructive nature. Paul is merely concerned with how he can make himself as happy as possible without any effort being put into what he fantasizes over. He dreams of being a great and wealthy man, and envies those who are wealthy for how others treat them and the fortunes they own, dreaming of himself being just as they are one day, yet he never puts a single thought into how they obtained such a lifestyle. Paul could become the person he wishes himself to be, but he is destined to failure because of his inability to bring himself to work toward his fantasies. The picture to the right symbolizes his lust for money, and his beliefs that it is the cure to all unhappiness. In reality, success, more often than not, comes from hard work and determination. Paul is unable to understand this, instead dreaming of what he could be and never doing anything to further himself or his life toward his dreams.

Works Cited

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Stitt, Jason. "Head In Money Stock Photo 8584960 : Shutterstock." Stock Photos, Royalty-Free Images and Vectors - Shutterstock. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2013.


"Red Carnations Flowers Fragrant Perennial." Red Carnations, Flowers, Fragrant. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2013.