"Paul's Case" Literary Analysis

Liz Polowczyk

Point of View

"Paul's Case" is written in the third person limited point of view. As a result the reader is told the events of the story through the eyes of a single character. The author often tells readers what the character sees, hears, feels and thinks, but they limited themselves to the character's perception of himself. This allows the reader to receive a deeper understanding of a single character as all the events are told from his perspective. If "Paul's Case" was told in another point of view the reader would not realize how different his sense of reality is from others. It is as though Paul is in a fog. He appears to have a blurred sense of reality and feels the need to distance himself from the world. The image of the fog can also be translated to the manner in which Willa Cather chose to craft the story. In choosing third person limited she must be sure to only see things as Paul would see them and not go out of the "fog" and consider other characters' points of view.


Paul has an obsession with all things sophisticated or ornate such as the deer horn pictured to the left. He uses the theater and his job as an usher as a way to escape reality. He has this idea that the arts are an ideal world; therefore he separates himself from all things that do not meet his expectations of this fantasyland. Once he actually obtains the life he had been dreaming of it does not satisfy him. He commits suicide.


The story begins in Paul's hometown on Cordilla Street. The reader can sense his contempt when he describes the street as "ugly" and "common". The picture on the left is most likely how Paul envisions his home, dull and homogenous. This goes back to Paul's addiction to all things sophisticated. As he gets closer and closer to his house he feels "the waters close above his head" He feels restricted by his way of life on Cordilla Street. When Paul reaches New York he believes that he will be truly happy as he has escaped his boring life, but in reality he is not happy there either.


Above his bed on Cordilla Street, Paul had two posters: one of George Washington, pictured right, the other of John Calvin. These posters were placed on the wall by his father. His father had very high standards for him and believed in the presence of role models. He hoped seeing men who achieved greatness in life would inspire Paul to do great things. Once he arrived in New York Paul slept with the lights on to avoid waking up to the faces of these men. Each time he thought of his bedroom the more he dreaded having to return to that restricting way of life.


At times one may try to alienate oneself society because he or she has different ideals, but removing oneself from society does not make things better. Paul believes that once he escapes his boring life on Cordilla Street life will be better, but in reality life did not improve especially when people found out about the stolen money. In the end Paul could not bear to live a life of loneliness and unhappiness; he jumps out in front of a train.

Works Cited

David.dolphin. Early Morning Fog. Digital image. Flickr. N.p., 11 Oct. 2007. Web. 09 Feb. 2013.

Dorrel, Richard. NY 4055: Red Brick Terraced Houses. Digital image. Geograph. N.p., 31 July 2011. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.

History Rewound. George Washington Photo. Digital image. Flickr. N.p., 19 Nov. 2009. Web. 09 Feb. 2013.

Hugoo13. Free Alien Cartoon Character 1. Digital image. DeviantArt. N.p., 07 Feb. 2011. Web. 08 Feb. 2013.

Nemo. Black and White Deer Horn. Digital image. N.p., 13 Apr. 2012. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.