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Paul's Case

            â€œPaul’s Case,” by Willa Cather, is about a teenage boy named Paul who despises his common, dreary life. He lives on Cordelia Street in Pittsburgh. Paul sees his home on Cordelia Street to be one of “ugliness and commonness” characterized by his room with “horrible yellow wallpaper,” an old bathroom with a grimy zinc tub and dripping spigots, and cooking odors that stayed in your clothes and on your hands. Instead, he dreams of a life filled with the trappings of wealth and royalty where one lives in palaces in Venice, yachts on the Mediterranean, or plays in Monte Carlo. He sees this life filled with beauty, art, music, and flowers. When Paul’s only link to the life he imagines, his job at the Carnegie Theatre, is taken away, Paul steals from his new employer, and escapes to New York to live the life he feels he naturally belongs to. After a week of living like a king, Paul is out of money, and he realizes that he must either return to the depression and monotony of Cordelia Street or escape permanently into death. As Paul moves from depression to exhilaration, form Pittsburgh to New York, Cather introduces introduces many symbols which dramatically contrast Paul’s conflict.
             The theater is an appropriate vehicle for Cather to use to show Paul’s yearning for a luxurious lifestyle. Actors and musicians live the life that should be his. He sees a soloist wearing a satin gown and tiara and associates these with achievement and opulence. She stays in hotels where doors are opened by doormen and guests are served “mysterious dishes” and drink from “green bottles in buckets of ice.” In the theater, Paul has the opportunity to be himself, be something he is not. He serves as an usher, wearing an impressive uniform giving him an air of importance and superiority. He behaves “as though this were a great reception and [he] were the host.