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Paul's Case by Willa Cather

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Paul's Case

Paul's Case is a short story by Willa Cather about a young man who determines that he has entered a world under circumstances unwilling to fulfill his dream of joining the upper class. When Paul realizes this fact he jumps in front of a train and ends his life. This act of fatality could be considered a righteous one because Paul convinced himself that he would spend his entire life chasing a dream that he would never reach. A person in Paul's case might regret killing him/herself because if they did they would be giving in to the society that caused them to believe that they could not fulfill their dreams. Although one could make the argument that Paul had a good reason for killing himself, he was indeed giving in to his worst fear by jumping in front of the train.

Paul was right in killing himself because he figured that he need not live a life that was incapable of fulfilling his dream. I am sure that there are other characters, non-fictional or fictional, that have 'cases' similar to Paul's but what is different about Paul's case is that he doesn't care about society, in fact he supremely dislikes it. Paul's dream is to become a member of the upper class, not to be accepted by some rich yuppies, but to have enough money to allow himself to have cathartic experiences as often as he wants. Paul has this condition that can only be called narcissistic, in that he wants to let art take him away, "blue league after blue league away from everything." This is shown when Paul gets himself lost in a blue Venetian scene, in the gallery of the Carnegie Hall he works at, but is interrupted by the fact that he should be downstairs ushering people to their seats. It is indeed true that Paul spends a thousand dollars, which he stole, when he travels to New York checking in at the Waldorf and buying new expensive clothes but what makes Paul's Case unique is the fact that this is not his goal in life. Paul kills himself because he knows that he will never have enough money to have a symbiotic relationship with a piece of art for as long as he desires.

Paul would have regretted his decision to kill himself because by killing himself he let the society that he hated so much run its course. If Paul had stayed in school, went to college and attempted to be successful he could have perhaps achieved his dream and overcame society's evilness. It is unknown whether or not Paul, perhaps through some supernatural force, knew for a fact that he would never achieve his dream but if this was not so it would make sense to at least attempt to accomplish the only goal in life he contained. The other main reason that Paul's decision was indeed not worth it was because Paul was confirming his worst fear by killing himself. Paul's worst fear was that he could never have enough money to have unlimited cathartic experiences with works of art.



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