Paul's Case Literary Analysis

Hunter Hewlett - 2A

Point of View

Paul's Case is narrated by an omniscient, third person narrator. The narrator gives insight to Paul's thoughts and emotions as the story progresses. Being unlimited, however, the narrator may jump from Paul to other characters. Earlier in the story the narrator switch to the teacher's perspective. The ability to be omnipresent is key in the way the author conveys the theme. The narrator introduces thoughts of other characters that assure the readers of Paul's obsessive personality that eventually leads to his demise. The theme is subtly reinforced through the third person point of view.

The image of an eagle represents an omniscient narrator with a bird's eye view of the situation.


Paul is an independent being, often thinking of things in his own manner. While his independence is a large part of his personality, he is still affected by the remarks of his teachers and peers. He takes his interaction with others very emotionally and this emotion eventually leads him to isolation. Paul's self-absorption leads way to general cynicism, in which he detests mediocracy and the middle class. He basically begins to despise the world around him. The author crafts his personality through his actions lead to him ostracism. His socially hindering monetary and artistic obsession lead him to further his distaste for the mundane.

The image of the man represents loneliness. The picture, a man by himself, relates to Paul's alienation from normalcy.


The setting changes throughout the story. The change in setting initiates change within Paul. At home, at school, and amongst mediocracy, Paul is despondent. He wants nothing to do with the mundane. His cynicism towards things he qualifies as normal is evident in his thoughts and actions. In places like NYC and Carnegie Hall, however, he becomes obsessed with the idea of art and its social status attached to it. He is consumed in his obsessiveness. His hatred of the middle class, and therefore the normalcy of suburbia leads him to obsess over places like Carnegie Hall.

The image of the skyline of NYC represents Paul's escape. Here he attempts to escape his normal life.


The red carnation is perhaps one of the largest symbols in this story. Paul wears a red carnation to preserve his individuality. This symbol represents Paul's defiance. He defies normalcy, refusing to fit in. His subtle defiance can be found early in the story: "His teachers felt this afternoon that this whole attitude was symbolized by his shrug and flippantly red carnation flower." On a larger scale, the flower represents Paul himself. The eventual burial of the flowers in the snow symbolizes Paul's death.

The image of the carnation represents the red carnation that Paul wears throughout the story.


The theme of Paul's case is complex, in that it relies on the combination of point of view, characterization, setting, and symbolism. Paul is a complex character whose thoughts and actions are the effect of a larger personality complex. His obsession with the grandiose feelings of city and upper class life are fueled by his hatred toward normal things. He alienates himself because of his self-absorption. Alienation comes as a side effect of his contempt for others and his elitist behavior. His withdrawal from life is demonstrated in his runaway attempt. His rude and contempt behavior sheds light on his larger, more serious personality disorder. Through apathy and self-absorption he solidifies his inferiority and isolation.

The optical illusion is a visual demonstrating Paul's obsession with art. He often becomes lost in it and steps away from reality. The optical illusion represents his captivation in the arts.


Hans. Marigolds Marigolds Turkish Carnation Dead Flower. Digital image. N.p., 17 Aug. 2011. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.
Law_keven. American Bald Eagle. Digital image. N.p., 25 Jan. 2009. Web. 8 Feb. 2013
Nemo. Black White Kids Free Color Line Draw Colouring. Digital image. N.p., 15 Apr. 2012. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.
Publicdomainpictures. Alone Evening Male Man Ocean Orange Person Sea. Digital image. N.p., 2 Mar. 2012. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.
Publicdomainpictures. New York City Skyling Building Tower Lights. Digital image. N.p., 17 Feb. 2012. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.