Then, various interpretations by critics using this reading will be proposed. A summarizing conclusion will express this student’s findings.
Paul is introduced by Cather as a young man with brilliant eyes with a ‘glassy glitter’, a narrow chest of which he was rather conscious, and a propensity for lying. In an awkward situation at school, he immediately strikes the reader as a typical sexually-ambivalent youth uncomfortable with his whole life situation, especially when relating to male authority in general, and his father in particular (Cather 1905). His teachers have one prickly impression of him, and are bewildered by their own reactions to his confusing character. His ushering job brings him inordinate pleasure, and it is easy for the reader to picture Paul: “a model usher; gracious and smiling he ran up and down the aisles; nothing was too much trouble for him... his greatest pleasure in life, and all the people in his section thought him a charming boy, feeling that he remembered and admired them.” (Cather 1905). Hating mundane everydayness and bad domestic smells, Paul is disgusted by his father’s ambitions for him, aspiring instead for refined garments and maintaining that “a certain element of artificiality seemed to him necessary in beauty.” (Cather 1905) The reader gets the impression of an aesthetic man, with heightened sensitivity and disgust with coarseness, but not necessarily effeminate. He is very attracted to nightlife and guises of theatricality. But “always tormented by fear”, he is ultimately pushed to an act of embezzlement that finances his deepest desire: to impersonate a well-dressed young man in the New York high life. His wishes are not strange in a reading expressly seeking these traits in a protagonist: these are desires and needs of a homosexual still in the throes of determining the origins and causes of his actions, and deciphering what they mean.
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