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Vice in Pauls Case and Sonny Blues

            Too often in today's society are people merely defined as their habits: he is a smoker, she is an alcoholic, etc., when these individuals are much more. Little attention is paid to what such people do, or what their particular stories are. In written work, though, as opposed to life, the characters can be examined, their vices scrutinized, and, eventually, all can be tied into the various stories" prevalent themes. Such is the matter in Willa Cather's "Paul's Case" and James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues.".
             The title character in Cather's short story voyages from his drab life and home in Pittsburgh to the marvelous New York City, where he fully expresses his shopaholism. Under his father's roof on Cordelia Street, Paul is dramatically oppressed; he dreads coming home at night for fear of his father. Paul, in one instance, rather than face his father's accusations, stealthily entered the cold, dank basement, where he slept until morning (225). In New York, Paul is able to stay out however late he desires, doing whatever since he is completely free of his father, yet succumbing fully to an otherwise stifled vice.
             Paul furthermore defies his father in his sense of cultural capital in New York. On Cordelia Street, pride is derived in a child's "progress in school, [his] grades in arithmetic, and the amounts [he] had saved in [his] toy bank"(226). The man who Paul's father holds as his "model" is a clerk for a wealthy steel businessman, and is married with children (227). Paul holds all of this with little regard; he seeks tangible goods, rich wares - one of the first items he purchases on his shopping spree is silver from Tiffany's, something his father would have, to say the least, frowned upon as a frivolous waste (230). Aside from oppression, Paul is moreover struggling with the nature versus nurture debate throughout the story.
             It is in Paul's nature to be attuned to the fine arts, but his upbringing deadens his true needs to his family, since they do not care to see such socially unacceptable behavior.

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