Heredity or environment
Are humans the products of nature, or are they products of the way that they are nurtured? Do human genes dictate the kind of person that one becomes? These are some of the questions that have continued to plague humanity. These questions have given psychologists, philosophers and scientists’ material in which to work with. Willa Cather in her short story Paul’s Case tries to answer some of these questions in a skillful way. However, she does not offer a clear resolution; this is according to the interpretations given by her critics.
Loretta Wassermann in her book Willa Cather suggests that, extensive interpratation Paul’s case has been divided(Wasserman 24).It has been divided upon the answers given by many critics of Willa’s work. Many people see Paul’s story, as a critical narration of a sensitive inclined youth, who is crushed by a detrimental environment. This is exhibited by the ugliness of his home area. Other people perceive the story as a study of detrimental and pathological states. The time that Cather wrote her story, had a great influence on her writings. Born at the second phase of the industrial revolution, she grew up at a time when new inventions helped in the construction of big industries (Edward and Leon 13).
Cather deals with the technological and aesthetic issue in her story, Paul’s Case. The story is set in Pittsburg, a town that is characterized by the glamorous lives of steel kings such as Carnegie (Edward and Leon 11). The wealthy steel kings, were a vital focal point for Paul’s aspirations. In the first part of the story, we meet Paul through his teacher’s perceptions. We are able to learn that at school, Paul is perceived as being Contemptuous and immensely irritating (Marilyn 14). His drawing teacher discovers that, there is something wrong with him. His mannerism in school is below what is expected. His dressing is dandy and he constantly avoids being touched. This paints the picture of a boy who does not fit into what is expected.
He portrays characteristics that are different from other kids. In the music hall, some children tell him that he is crazy. They put him down and sit on him. Despite his perceived shortcomings, he is described as having the theater in his blood (Carpenter 593). In the first pages of the story, Cather does not give Paul any redeeming quality. Paul willingness to tell lies at school is seen. He is disdained about his neighbors, Paul perceives everybody as being ugly and stupid. With all this, there is a power that attracts us towards liking Paul. We are able to understand his wish to be part of a fair world. Paul does not want to be “destined in the black night outside” (Marilyn 21).When he sleeps outside, he makes us have compassion on him. We empathize with his fear of rats and his severe loneliness.
Cather successfully draws us in Paul’s world. When Paul sits on the “Lowest step of his stoop” (Marilyn 26), he attentively listens to another man who speaks with...