Willa Cather’s short story Paul’s Case is a narrative about a young boy who faces the struggle of living the life immensely different from the one that he wishes to have. The interesting issue that Willa Cather brings up through her story is the idea of unrealistic expectations that some people carry around for very, very long until they realize that all this time what they have been dreaming about was not even valid or true to life.
In Paul’s case, the problem is his affection and passion towards art. For Paul, art is a broad term for everything that goes beyond reality — he admires all kinds of art — for example, theater, music, paintings, and other. Paul has unconsciously trained himself to believe that art is an ultimate escape from his daily routine. At the beginning, this doesn’t bother him of all people, yet as the story goes the reader realizes better and better that Paul’s desire for art — that mostly included the theater with its lights, and colors, and costumes, and flowers, — is solely unhealthy. When Paul finally came to the understanding that he is more likely to never get all of that — to never drown is his fantasyland of art — he closes up and decided that his real life is then not worth living at all.
The moral of the story is right on the surface — Willa Cather wanted to show that living in a fantasy is only good to a certain extent. Once that extent is crossed, the ugly arises, as by putting an excessive focus on what you don’t have you put yourself at a risk of losing what you do have.
What is also interesting, Paul, regardless of his obsession with art, wants to contribute no part to it. He pictures himself as the observer, the one who is here to enjoy and praise art, rather than create it. Apart of that, Paul is also extremely passionate about money, which makes a huge conflict of interest arise once the art and the money face one another. The boy believes that having a lot of money is what is to bring him far in life and make him successful.
The end of the story is rather a sad one; Paul commits suicide. The reasons for him to make this call are endless, but the main emphasis is put on his loneliness, feeling of not belonging to where he was, alienation and no sense of happiness at all. Paul has foreseen that happening, he even brought a gun with him to New York, explaining that he might need it for a so-called eloping.
Willa Cather’s short story Paul’s Case is a narrative about a young boy who faces the struggle of living the life immensely different from the one that he wishes to have.