Paul's Case Literary Analysis

Amber Stafford

Point of View

Cather's story is told from a third person limited point of view. The author uses this perspective to show not only what is going on in Paul's mind, but also what's going on around him. By using this point of view, the readers are allowed to see Paul in a light that we might not have been able to if it was from his own, first person point of view. Looking from the outside, we can see how Paul deplores his life for what it is and is defiant to the people around him and to the truth. A camera conveys the point of view because it too gets a look at things from an outsider's perspective. Photographers often take pictures of what they want to see or things they like and Paul does the same. He only sees what he wants and isn't happy with what he has.

Buhrmann, Axel. Meeting the New Canon EOS 7D. Digital image. Flickr. N.p., 23 Oct. 2009. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.


Cather characterizes Paul as being someone who isn't content with his life the way it is. The narrator uses this discontent to convey Paul's darker side and how his lies and fantasies about his actor "friends" led him to his defeat because he couldn't accept the life he had. The tunnel of money accurately characterizes Paul because his obsession with money and being higher class brought him down on a spiral. After stealing the money and living his dream life, he knows he has to go back and face reality. Having the money and lifestyle he wanted would eventually end when his stolen spree ran out which is why he took his life.

Ramsey, Keith. Money Tunnel. Digital image. Flickr. N.p., 11 Aug. 2010. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.


Living on Cordelia Street was a constant reminder to Paul that he wasn't living in riches and being home made him unhappy because he looked down on everyone around him. Cather uses the setting throughout the story to show how materialistic Paul is. He is completely upset with his life at home even though that is reality, but when he stays in a lavish hotel in New York City, he is much happier despite its artificiality. The skyline of New York City conveys the setting by showing the glamour and allure that Paul saw in going to such an ideal place where dreams can come true; however, Paul's did not and his dream life was short-lived.

Trodel. Nyc Skyline. Digital image. Fotopedia. N.p., 22 Sept. 2009. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.


Throughout the story, Cather repeatedly mentions red carnations and Paul's magnetism towards them. Whether he's wearing one, seeing them in a shop, wishing they were in his hotel room, or being buried in the snow, they are always around. The carnations are symbolic of Paul's life. They start out as lively and representative of his flippant attitude, but at the end he notices they are wilted and dying just like he is which shows the reader that faking the life he wants won't bring him a real life or any life at all. The chosen picture is a great fit for the symbolism in the story because they are exactly like the kind that represented Paul.

Demeres, James. Red Carnations Flowers Fragrant Perennial. Digital Image. Pixabay. N.p., 29 Dec. 2012. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.


Cather uses several literary devices, such as the ones above, that can be used to construe the theme. When all of them are combined, it might be interpreted that the theme is that life isn't always what we want it to be, and even though we might try to disguise its flaws, they don't disappear. The image of masks depicts the theme because Paul masked his life by ignoring the reality that was back on Cordelia Street. He didn't think it fit him and always wanted bigger and better, but his trip to New York City and his spree with stolen money were all a facade.

PixelAnarchy. Masks. Digital image. Pixabay. N.p., 1 Aug. 2011. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.