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Courtney Hale 10 - 27 - 99 Freshman English I Pauls Case by Willa Cather Willa Cather was born near Winchester, Virginia in 1873. At age ten, she moved with her family to Nebraska where most of her stories were set. In 1913, she began an extensive writing career which included many short stories and several novels. In her stories, she depicted the lives of prairie farmers on the great plains. She glorified them over the city dwellers. In 1922, she won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel One of Ours.
She left behind a heritage for the people she represented, and a living history of a period and place in time. This short story, Pauls Case, was written around 1905 when Willa Cather was living in Pittsburgh; it is the only one of her stories with that city as a background. During her time there she taught in a high school and she said the story was based on experience with two boys in her classes. It also has connections to her own background of growing up in a small town in Nebraska where she hungered for a broader life experience. In Pauls Case, by Willa Cather, Paul displays selfishness, impatience, and, in the end, cowardice to live his life the way he sees as ideal. Paul, a sensitive high school student, shows his selfish manner in order to gain what he believes is a higher goal.
Pauls father tries to display trust in Paul by taking him from Carnegie Hall and the theater guild and placing him in an occupation where he will someday be able to prosper. Paul does not see in a light which would make him proud to accept his fathers trust. In the opposite, he thinks his father is taking him away from what he loves for pure spite. Paul had no concern for his fathers feelings or reputation when he took the money from his employer.
This fact is amply displayed when the narrator shows the feelings of Paul, by saying, From the time he slipped the bank notes into his pocket until he boarded the night train for New York, he had not known a moments hesitation. It was almost as if he were directly trying to punish his father by ruining what he had built all his life. He also felt that the world of the rich had been formed just for him. In the story, a scene is portrayed where Paul walks through the halls of the Waldorf feeling that he were in the chambers of an enchanted place where everyone was there only for his benefit, as if they were only to watch and study. Also, Pauls impatience is astounding. His feelings that he should not have to wait on what is due to him are totally unfounded.
He almost acts like a small child would not wanting to earn a toy but expects to have it at that moment. This is displayed when it is reflected that he rather liked to hear these legends of the iron kings, that were told and retold on Sundays and holidays; these stories of palaces in Venice, yachts on the Mediterranean, and high play at Monte Carlo appealed to his fancy, and he was interested in the triumphs of cash boys who had become famous, though he had no mind for the cashbox stage... He is not happy with the life he lives, and does not feel it is where he belongs. He has a belief that there is no time better than the present, no matter what the cost. It was even a hardship for Paul to wait for his arrival in New York.
When he was first seated on the train, it is told that Paul settled back to struggle with his impatience as best he could. He even displays this with the rapidity that he spends the money, like there would be no tomorrow. In the end, Paul shows that he has not the courage to meet up with the opposition of what he has done. His way out exhibits he is a coward. As Paul leaps from the bridge, it is hard to even believe he could not think of another way out. Instead of facing up to what he had done, and spent the time he deserved to spend paying back the money and giving the correct apologies, he decides to end his life.
Even when he was about to commit the act, he could not think of what he was going to do or what would occur if he did not when he was walking towards the tracks and trying to sort the images he had seen on his journey, because he was unable to cope with vital matters near at hand. He felt suicide was his one way ticket away from the trouble he would meet with when his father arrived in New York. Once he had the sudden realization that he had left so much undone, it was too late. Willa Cather, the author of Pauls Case, made Paul the most selfish, impatient, and cowardly character ever seen in literature.
People must wait on what is due to them. Fortune and happiness do not come from wishing they were there. They are attained through hard work and diligence. These are two characteristics Paul did not possess. Maybe, it was better he had his moment in the sun through ill gain, because he had no potential of actually earning it.
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