Paul's Case Literary Analysis

Kate Donahue

Point of View

Paul sees himself as better than most because he has an idea of how to actually live life.  He views his routine as bland but gets tastes of a finer experience.  This experience stews into a passionate obsession and ultimately leads him into believing he has no reason to be this person. Cather portrays Paul's senses by writing in third person omniscant, which allows Paul to truely show how he is feeling about what he is doing. My picture of a bridge reminded me of Paul's outlook on life.  He is standing at the top of the bridge looking down into the water rather than swimming in it. I'd imagine that Paul would rather criticize the river for being the same as any other than to actually swim in it and feel its waves and life.    


Paul is intense when it comes to his passions, but besides that he dreads life. Paul is obsessed with searching for the ultimate world where everything is fascinating and nothing is bland, but once the search is over, Paul finds himself in a rut. Cather wanted us to imagine Paul as this "thrill-seeker" and "fine appreciater" which is why he describes Paul with such zest. My picture of the pepers describe Paul perfectly. The peper is unapologetically spicy, much like Paul when he takes on New York and the teachers. Paul running away to New York is the perfect example of his character because it shows that he does not care about the people around him, he is just in it for the thrill. Also, like the peper which adds bursts of flavor to any dish, Paul adds personality to a bland existance, thus making life more interesting and thrilling.


In the setting, we find that Cather puts emphasis on the more important places. When Cather describes the music and aroma of Carnegie Hall, he goes into great depth connecting these to Pauls emotions. This really brings the reader to understand that Paul is not a senseless man, but rather a person who enjoys the richer things in life (by richer I not only mean monetarily but emotionally). The hotel brings in the same emotions. The school and Cordelia Street evoke more of a depressing and bland side to his life. These places prove Pauls character by stating that although he lives a normal life, normality is not worth living for. I chose a picture of pencils because even though they are just normal pencils, it is not the pencil that creates the masterpiece it is the artist. This relates to the many different settings in Paul's case because as you will notice in all of the places he travels it is never once the place that makes Paul feel a particular way, it is what Paul makes of it that molds his attitude. In the school, Paul does not like his teachers, so he views it as a miserable place but with Carnegie Hall Paul makes sure to take in the surroundings and truely make the most out of it.


There were many symbols in Paul's Case. There were three specific symbols that really stuck out to me, the first was the bed. Paul's bed on Cordelia Street symbolizes his bland life. How he tosses and turns symbolize his struggle with normality and the figures above Paul's bed (George Washington and John Calvin) symbolize how he feels restricted by society and like these revolutionaries, how he wants to break free. The second symbol in Paul's Case is the red carnation. This carnation symbolizes Paul's life and how different he is from normal (a white carnation) and by burrying this carnation in the snow (third symbol) it is like he is burrying a symbol of greatness. The snow symbolizes a bland and monotonous existance, and by burrying his carnation he is giving in to the normal. I have chosen a picture of a red carnation in the snow obviously because of the symbolism I have just described.


Life must be purposeful, appealing, and new or else it is not worth living for. The theme of Paul's Case really revolves around the ordinary and extraordinary quality of life. Paul is fixated with the extraordinary and sees ordinary as no way to live, this is why we, the reader, tend to see Paul's way as more appealing because Cather wants us to envison Paul's passions with all of our senses. I included a picture of a roller coaster mainly because like Paul, people who ride are often in search of a thrill or something new. And even though a roller coaster may be scary, it brings out our senses and makes us more aware. But all of these things make us more intense and seem more appealing which is exactly what Cather wanted to make us feel. Cather wanted us to experience the ups and downs and the stop. This was Paul's life. This was his struggle.