Paschal, "The author's central meaning or the theme of a literary work" (372). Paschal also states that an idea is the author's means of presenting a point which may change the way his reader views life and lives it (67). Sometimes the idea may be clearly stated. More often, the idea is implied or suggested through other elements. In fact, one can determine the idea by looking closely at other literary elements involved, such as characterization, setting, events, point of view, tone, irony, imagery, etc. In other words, idea is illuminated through these literary elements. Often, different people reach different opinions about the idea in a literary work and many times there is more than one idea presented. Therefore, in-depth research of an author and his work is needed to discover the point he is trying to get across to his reader. .
Idea can be substantially influential in a literary work causing the reader to acquire or reinforce existing values and, as a result, have a great impact on the reader's life. Now one can study the idea in Willa Cather's "Paul's Case" that the lack of love and affection a person feels, due to an abnormal lifestyle, may impede his mental and emotional development. Cather presents several ways of bringing this idea to her reader. First, she uses dialogue between Paul and his principal to show Paul's lack of respect for authority figures. Secondly, Cather uses figurative language primarily through the symbolism of Paul's love of flowers to present Paul's state of mind and his self-concept. Lastly, Willa Cather uses episodes, things that happen, in the story to show Paul's feeling of alienation and his destructive substitute for attention, fantasy. An episode in particular one can study is Paul's employment at Carnegie Hall, his means of escape from reality. Using these methods of presenting idea, Cather successfully shows that casting away a person, as a result of his abnormal lifestyle, may cause his mental and emotional demise.