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Self Imposed Estrangement In Paul's Case Essay

1333 words - 5 pages

Self-imposed Estrangement in "Paul's Case," by Willa Cather

Many times, we try to separate ourselves from the world around us; we distance ourselves from society that gives us life. What is worse, we are voluntarily subjected to the lonesomeness which precedes wallowing in our own self pity. "Paul's Case," in which the theme of the fatal progression of deliberate seclusion presents the major conflict, centers around a young man, in his alienation, suppressing his need for attention and satisfying himself through his own world established through his seclusion. The author, Willa Cather, renders this main theme by her insinuations of the character, by the point of view she chooses to illuminate Paul"'"s characteristics, and by key symbols that contribute to the overall work.

The character presented by Cather through Paul, withdraws himself from his environment creating the base for the theme of his progressively intensifying need for distinct separation. The reasons Paul acts the way he does seems two fold. First, the sequence of events could be caused by psychological damage or some mental condition, possibly stemming from his mothers death, which was only alluded to in the story. Paul was a teenager who displayed certain signs of a mental illness. According to The Medical Advisor#, Paul suffers from many of similar symptoms of a narcissist. Although the personality disorder was not diagnosed until 1977, and was not perfected until 1987 and expanded upon in 1994, Cather"'"s character of 1904 embodies many of the symptoms listed. Of those Paul qualifies for are: highly developed sense of self importance, preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, belief that he or she is special, feeling he has the envy of peers, and arrogant behavior. The most prevalent of the qualities is Paul"'"s grossly over-developed sense of self importance, which is known to cause social withdrawal, and in extreme cases suicide, according to doctors specializing in psychological disabilities#. Paul displays this arrogance in his embellished stories of moving and the exaggeration of experiences and achievements with the stock company. Also this is seen in Paul"'"s sense of Cordelia Street as of a lower rank than him. Another obvious connection between Paul and narcissism is his fixation with fantasies and unlimited success. Even when Paul is surrounded by what he had dreamed of, he still dreams of more. He is not satisfies with being in a ball room of people sophistically level with him, rather there is still a desire for more, still a void in his soul that he can not fill. Paul feels that he is special and deserves to associate with those of his equal. For this reason, he enjoys interaction with the experienced circle of the theater until his teacher connects his world with an inferior world outside him. From there he moves on to be surrounded by the high class society of New York City. Paul"'"s story telling gives him the belief that his classmates...

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