"Paul's Case" Literary Analysis

Maddy Jones

Point of View

Willa Cather uses the third person omniscient point of view to allow the reader to comprehend not only what Paul is thinking and doing, but what the people in contact with him are thinking and doing in addition.The image of the eye through the keyhole represents the ability of the narrator to see, hear, and feel everything that happens with all characters.
 Nemo. Eye Keyhole. Digital image. Pixabay. N.p., 11 Nov. 2012. Web. 08 Feb. 2013.


Through Paul's thoughts and actions, and the characters surrounding him's reactions, Cather portrays Paul's extremely obssessive personality with money and a fantasy life, his selfish nature, and his own alienation. The image of the desert conveys Paul's feeling of isolation.

Yeowatzup. Syrian Desert. Digital image. Flickr. N.p., 21 July 2012. Web. 08 Feb. 2013.


Cather uses the setting to contribute to the purpose and theme of the short story. While it opens in a school setting, the most important scenes occur on Cordelia Street, in Carnegie Hall, and in New York. On Cordelia Street, Paul lives the mundane, unextravagant life that he despises. In Carnegie Hall, Paul is capable of feeling a "peculiar intoxication" where he over indulges in his obsession. In New York, Paul surrounds himself in the setting that he yearned for but he later ends his own life here. Each location embodies and important element of Paul and his journey. The compass represents a sense of direction or no direction. No matter the direction one goes, there is an impact.

Nemo. Compass. Digital image. Pixabay. N.p., 02 June 2012. Web. 08 Feb. 2013.


The author uses symbols such as Cordelia Street and red carnations to contribute additional meaning to the piece. Cordelia Street represents the typical and boring life that he disowns and eventually leaves behind. In the beginning of the piece, Paul wears a red carnation and in the end he buries a bouquet of them in the snow. They symbolize the life of Paul. When he buries them in the snow they represent Paul's death and the preservation of his life in the snow. Both symbols give a deeper portrayal of Paul's life. The symbol for "hospital" is very common and well-known so it is fitting for this portion of analysis.
Nemo. Hospital Symbol. Digital Image. Pixabay. N.p., 12 May 2012. Web. 08 Feb. 2013.


Willa Cather explores Paul's over indulgence and obsession in a fantasy lifestyle which leads to his own alienation. Through this short fiction, the message that an unhealthy obsession in an unrealistic lifestyle or fantasy can lead to self-alienation and poor decisions is conveyed to readers. A dandelion is an accurate representation of theme because when one blows the petals or florets of a dandelion, they plant new dandelions if they land in the right spot. If the theme is understood by the right person, it will plant a new idea or train of thought in some aspect of their life.
PeterDargatz. Dandelion. Digital Image. Pixabay. N.p., 09 August 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.