Paul’s Case by Willa Cather “Paul entered the faculty room suave and smiling. His clothes were a trifle outgrown and the tan velvet on the collar of his open overcoat was frayed and worn; but for all that there was something of the dandy about him, and he wore an opal pin in his neatly knotted black four-in-hand, and a red carnation in his buttonhole” (P. 160). Even in a situation as serious as getting expelled from school, Paul shows very little empathy for his mistakes.
He gives his superiors a bad attitude, snide remarks, and does not seem to have a clear picture of the reality that he may not be let back into school. The only thing that matters to Paul is his life at the theatre. Paul uses many defense mechanisms to dissociate his real life from the fantasy world he has created at Carnegie Hall. Paul is separating his naturally occurring feelings from events or thoughts that are really happening.
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Although Paul is actually rude and cocky, he still manages to keep a smile on his face which keeps everyone guessing as to what his true nature is.
Paul spends most of his time daydreaming and he ends up being late to his job at the theater; even though his job is very important to him and high on his priority list. Paul spends most of his time living in his fantasy world. Paul is described as a bit odd, flamboyant, and very eccentric. He dreams of being famous, but feels like no one will ever understand him. He lies to get his way. When faced with conflict he withdraws from real life, escapes to the theatre, and becomes everything he has ever wanted to be.
He is greatly offended by the sight of one of his teachers coming to the theatre to see a show. Carnegie Hall is “Paul’s World”, and she is not welcome. He is beside himself, does not know what to do, and is very dramatic over the whole situation. In reality Paul is gay and is looking for someone to blame for his homosexuality. Does Paul blame God for making him this way? Is this also a form of his passive aggression? Passive aggression is defined as: Aggression towards others expressed indirectly or passively. Paul is very passive at home.
He is being raised by his father, whom Paul speaks politely to, and even seems to be a bit fearful of. When asking for car fare to go see his tutor, Paul is reluctant, shy, and speaks very softly to his father. I believe Paul takes his fear of his father out on everyone else around him, so he does not have any conflict with him. “ He felt no necessity to do any of these things; what he wanted was to see, to be in the atmosphere, float on the wave of it, to be carried out, blue league after blue league, away from everything” (P. 170).
Paul defiantly feels more comfortable when he is “behind the scene”. His actions show that he is not in control of his emotions, and does not know his place in life. With stolen money in hand, Paul runs away, buys a new and expensive wardrobe, and checks into the Waldorf Hotel. “When he reached the dining-room he sat down at a table near a window. The flowers, the white linen, the many-coloured wine glasses, the gay toilettes of women, the low popping of corks, the undulating repetitions of the Blue Danube from the orchestra, all flooded Paul’s dream with bewildering radiance”(P. 175).
Paul feels like “this”, is what life is all about, the feeling he gets inside when living the life of rich people. Drama is such a huge part of who Paul is on the inside, even if no one else sees him. “The mere release from the necessity of petty lying, lying every day and every day, restored his self- respect” (P. 177). Even though Paul is in a lot of trouble for stealing money from a law firm, he finally feels at ease for the first time. Knowing that he cannot return home, Paul, with the greatest of drama, decides to take his own life rather than face who he is and what he has done.
It was the dead of winter in Newark, where Paul manages to take a short nap, despite the cold, and leaps in front of an oncoming train. “Then, because the picture making mechanism was crushed, the disturbing visions flashed into black, and Paul dropped into the immense design of things” (P. 180). Who or what is to blame for Paul’s suicide? If this story were written today, with society being more accepting of people who are gay, could there have been a different outcome? Paul needed some psychiatric help and a little understanding, not to take the easy way out.