Thursday, July 28, 2022

Class 12 Optional English Note || Summary of Paul’s Case by Willa Cather || Fiction || Short Story

Lesson: 4

Class 12 Optional English Note || Summary of Paul’s Case by Willa Cather || Fiction || Short Story

Paul’s Case by Willa Cather


Nebraska and New York


alienation, addictive nature of art, obsession for money, teenage dream, homosexuality

Major Character:


About the Story

The story ‘Paul’s Case’ is related to a schoolboy named Paul escaping monotonous life by committing suicide. His frustration is his middle -class life mixed with a desire for a luxurious life style which makes him anxious to create a perfect life style for himself. In the story, Paul is presented as a case since he is a misfit who by standards of society, needs to be studied and reformed. He is suspended from his school for a week for his various misdemeanors. He struggles to fit in at home and in school. He is tall, thin and narrow shouldered with enlarged pupils that remind one of a drug addict’s eyes.


Paul’s faculty hearing takes place in the presence of the principal. His teachers state that they have so much difficulty with him. They react strongly to his attitude of defiance (disobedience) and physical revulsion at being touch. They suspend him from school for a week.

After the hearing, he goes to the town where he works as an usher at the opera house. He enjoys the concert and admires the soloist who he thinks looks dignified and worthy of respect in her gown and jewels. After the singer comes out of the concert hall, Paul follows her to the hotel. He imagines himself following her inside the luxurious hotel. He turns away from the hotel and walks home. He arrives at the middle-class street where he lives. When he reaches his house, he sneaks into the cellar to spend the night because he can't face his father.

The next Sunday, Paul attends Sunday school and then hangs around with his neighbors. He is not happy with one of his neighbors because of his complain. He is a clerk in a steel company to whom Paul’s father constantly compares Paul. He goes to the theater where he helps an actor named Charley Edwards for his evening performance.

Paul is obsessed with the theater, and considers it superior to his normal life at school and at home. He tells his classmates about his connections to actors and actresses. When the headmaster discovers this, he reports it to Paul’s father. Paul’s father forces him to leave his job as an usher because of this. Instead, he gets Paul a job at a business office.

Shortly after starting the new job at Den & Carson's, Paul steals money and runs away to New York. When he gets to the city, he buys different clothes, bags and jewels. He also buys a gun. Then, he goes to the Waldorf hotel and books a room for himself on the eighth floor.

Paul spends the rest of the day sightseeing in New York, and then he goes to a lavish dinner. In the restaurant, he is happy to watch the people indifferent to each. He feels that he is a part of New York society and likes knowing that his clothes help him fit in.

A week passes, and Paul finds that his theft has been discovered and reported by the Pittsburgh newspapers. He also discovers that his father has paid back the stolen money, and has traveled to New York to find him. The next morning, he wakes up, and looks at the gun. He thinks it is not the good way to kill himself. He seems to admit that he is a gay. He catches the train to Newark, takes a cab to the railroad tracks in Pennsylvania. He leaps in front of an oncoming train, and ends his life rather than returns to his old life.

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