Paul spends much of the story gazing longingly through windows, from the swinging glass doors of the Schenley hotel where the Carnegie Hall soloist is staying, to the storefront windows in Manhattan that Paul zooms past in a carriage, with their bright bouquets of flowers framed within. Glass windows seem to invite Paul inside: they give him a glimpse of another world, allowing him to imagine himself as belonging to it. But, as Paul realizes when he is drawn to the Schenley in the midst of a rainstorm, even as windows give transparency and the illusion of accessibility, they also create boundaries, separating the inside from the outside, and those who belong from those who don’t. Windows thus represent, in the story, both a dream of inclusion and the inaccessibility of the life Paul desires for himself. Paul longs to live a fabulous life in New York, viewing the city as a kind of haven for him with its arts and culture and its relatively tolerant attitude toward gay people—but living in New York takes money Paul doesn’t have, and as his past crimes threaten to catch up with him, he ultimately falls victim to the harsh realities of the world beyond the New York bubble. In this way, windows represent the barrier between Paul and the life he aspires—but ultimately fails—to win for himself.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Windows appears in Paul’s Case. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...a carriage toward the Park, marveling at the sights and the bouquets blooming behind the windows, all set off against the blinding white snow. The Park is “a wonderful stage winter-piece.”... (full context)