Willa Cather's short story "Paul's Case"

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Willa Cather's short story "Paul's Case" is a story of a young man, wise beyond his years, and caught in an infantile fantasy world. Though the story takes place over the course of a few short months, we see Paul grow from being an insolent student to a hunted criminal.


His work as an usher takes him away from his drab surroundings and into another world where the music reveals the "potent spirit within him". Paul's world is built upon untruths. Paul does not care to join in the world of music and drama; he is satisfied just to live vicariously through its proximity. Paul feasts off the efforts of others. For Paul the whole world is all lies, and the theater is one more of Paul's illusions. For Paul it was easy and necessary for overcoming the difficult task of effort.
The theater is not only his escape from school, but also from Cordelia Street. Cordelia Street is the symbol of the "colorless mass of everyday existence". Paul can not subscribe to the middle class and could never be a clerk. He would never become one of the "rivets in the machine" that his father had. Paul wanted to be at the top "though he had no mind for the cash-boy stage". Paul needs more. Paul immerses himself in the drama of the theater with fanatical tales of his exaggerated importance. Fearing that Paul had wandered too far from the center of normality, his father demands that he be put to work. Alienated from school by the strict teachers, from home by his father's dismal existence and banished from the theater Paul creates a new illusion. ...
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