Analysis for "Paul's Case"

Angela Heysel

Muttoo, Ian. Theatre Royal Panorama, Brighton, UK. Digital image. Fotopedia. N.p., 28

Nov. 2007. Web. 9 Feb. 2013.

Point of View

The point of view in the short story "Paul's Case" is omniscient, allowing a narrator to tell the reader Paul's story. This point of view is effective because Paul is not living in the real world. If the story was told through Paul's eyes only, the reader would not be able to see the faults in Paul's dreaming because he believes his behavior is justified. The dangers of being lost in another world are not portrayed through Paul's thoughts.

The theatre represents the short story's point of view because as an audience member, one is able to see everything that is going on in the play. A theatergoer is not limited to only viewing the external conflicts because actors may express their internal thoughts and emotions through soliloquies and asides. The narrator is telling Paul's story just as an audience member watches a play.

Xurble. S Is for Superman. Digital image. Fotopedia. N.p., 30 Mar. 2009. Web. 9 Feb. 2013


Paul is described as a "suave and smiling" boy (pg.243, par.1) who is "accustomed to lying" (pg. 243, par.3) by his teachers. He views himself as a superior being who is trapped in plain, limiting world where he believes he is "appreciated elsewhere" (pg.243, par.35). What others may depict as defiance and cockiness, Paul sees confidence and talent. His superiority complex leads him into a fantasy world where he is surrounded by his equals instead of the rich businessmen of Cordelia Street. He believes he is better than his peers and superiors because he is able to escape the monotony of life through his sophisticated appreciation of the arts; however, he is just an average high school boy who believes he is invincible.

Paul's confidence in himself mirrors a superhero. Just like Superman, Paul believes he is indestructible. Rather than saving the world, Paul is rescuing himself from his dull future of becoming the young man on the stoop whom his father "[hoped] that he world pattern" (pg. 240, par. 25). Paul's impulsive lying to his classmates and dreams of the theatre are just as impractical as Superman's perfect world where good always trumps evil. Every superhero has their kryptonite. Paul's kryptonite is the fact that he is just a boy who isn't ready to take on the real world. He would rather live in the life of luxury that he believes he deserves than work his way up to the top. Unfortunately, his kryptonite finally got the best of him.

Kangotraveler. Jail Cell- Alcatraz. Digital image. Flickr. N.p., 5 Oct. 2007. Web. 9 Feb. 2013.


The setting of this short story is Cordelia Street and New York City. Cordelia Street represents the world of hardworking people who do well in school and have the perfect home, job, and family. This is the world that Paul is trying escape from. He escapes from the dullness of life on Cordelia Street to the bustling city of New York. New York represents his dream life, a life where he can visit the theatre and mingle with people who are exciting, sophisticated, and worthy of his presence. New York also represents the impracticality of Paul's dream, for it is impossible for a teenage boy to live in such an expensive city on his own.

The picture of the jail cell demonstrates Paul's feelings of being trapped in the Cordelia Street prison. Similar to an inmate, Paul envisions the magnificence of the outside world; however, once he escapes, staying on track and starting a new life isn't as easy as it seems. Once on their own, many free inmates struggle with staying out of jail. Paul was suffering these same feelings when he discovered his father was coming for him, but rather than returning to prison, he ended it all.

Dvortygirl. Greenhouse. Digital image. Fotopedia. N.p., 14 Sept. 2009. Web. 9 Feb. 2013.


At the beginning of "Paul's Case," Paul proudly sports a red carnation on his jacket, for which his teachers look down upon. At the end of the story, Paul buries this carnation under the snow stating that "despite their brave mockery at the winter outside the glass... It was a losing game in the end" (pg. 250, par. 67). These vibrant red carnations represent Paul's rebellious spirit that was eventually crushed by the plainness of everyday life. These flowers might defiantly resist the winter's chill, but that is only because they are protected by the flower shop window. Once exposed to the outside world, they quickly wither away. Paul confidently resisted conforming to the cookie cutter life on Cordelia Street; however, once he escaped the protections of his home, he was doomed to be crushed by conformity.

The picture of the greenhouse effectively portrays the symbolism because just like Paul, these flowers are protected from the dangers of the outside world. As soon as they are exposed to the elements, the flowers will die because they are not accustomed to life outside the greenhouse.

RezzanAtakol. The Street. Digital image. Deviantart. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2013.


The theme of "Paul's Case" is that in order to deal with the monotony of everyday life, one must have a means of escape; however, completely replacing reality with fantasy can be destructive. Paul was constantly trying to find a way to escape Cordelia Street. Once we ran away to New York City, reality soon caught up to him. Rather than facing reality once again, Paul took his own life.

The idea of floating on a cloud is similar to day dreaming. Clouds protect one from the real world because they are so high in the sky; however, they are made up of tiny droplets of water. There is always a risk of falling through a cloud back down to the real world, and it is not gentle. Paul was floating on a cloud way above the miseries of Cordelia Street and was unable to handle the downfall.