Analysis of Paul's Case by Willa Cather
Willa Cather’s “Paul’s Case” is a story about a young 16 year-old man, Paul, who is motherless and alienated. Paul’s lack of maternal care has led to his alienation. He searches for the aesthetics in life that that he doesn’t get from his yellow wallpaper in his house and his detached, overpowering father figure in his life. Paul doesn’t have any interests in school and his only happiness is in working at Carnegie Hall and dreams of one-day living the luxurious life in New York City. Paul surrounds himself with the aesthetics of music and the rich and wealthy, as a means to escape his true reality.
In Paul’s true reality he has a lack of interest in school. His disinterest in school stems from the alienation and isolation he has in life. This disinterest in school reflects Paul’s alienation because of the unusual attention he receives there that he doesn’t get at home. In class one day he was at the chalkboard and “his English teacher had stepped to his side and attempted to guide his hand” (Cather 1). Paul, at the moment of being touched, stepped backwards suddenly and put his hands behind his back. In other classes he looks out the window during lectures and pays little attention to his teacher’s lessons. Paul, growing up without a mother figure in his life, is unaccustomed to any affection or care from his teachers that mothers tend to give. Therefore, his alienation is portrayed in his attitude toward school, and the foreign maternal attention he receives there.
Paul’s motherless house and the way he describes his house with all the different features shows his manifested alienation. He feels like he doesn’t belong there with his father, a detached dominating presence in the house. He despises his ugly room with its horrible yellow wallpaper and pictures of George Washington and John Calvin hanging over his bed. Paul can not stand the cold bathroom with the cracked mirror. Paul comes to his house on Cordelia Street and knows his father would be at the top of the stairs with his hairy legs in his night-shirt and slippers. “Paul stopped short before the door. He felt
that he could not be accosted by his father tonight; that he could not toss again on that miserable bed” (Cather 5). Paul is longing for the beauty and aesthetics pleasures in life.
He does not get any of that in his house with the yellow wallpaper and pictures of his father’s forced icons of Washington and Calvin over his bed.
The only place Paul is able to escape his reality and unfulfilling life is at Carnegie Hall. Carnegie Hall is a haven for Paul and gives him the classy atmosphere of the arts that he lacks in his life. He has an usher job at Carnegie Hall and unlike his house and school, Paul enjoys going there to work. He is able to escape and be with the rich and attractive people that come to the hall.
It was at the theatre and at Carnegie Hall that Paul really lived; the rest...