Paul’s Case


Willa Cather

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Themes and Colors
Art and Artificiality vs. Reality  Theme Icon
Alienation and Homosexuality Theme Icon
Money and Wealth  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Paul’s Case, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Art and Artificiality vs. Reality

Paul, the adolescent protagonist of “Paul’s Case,” suffers from worse than usual teenage angst. The story begins in Pittsburgh, where Paul seeks an escape from his drab, dismal home and school life through the world of theatre and performances at Carnegie Hall. In the second half of the story, the plot shifts to New York City, when Paul flees Pittsburgh to live a lavish lifestyle out of the Waldorf Hotel. In escaping to the big…

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Alienation and Homosexuality

As the story describes the way Paul perceives his dull, drab life in Pittsburgh—a dullness that he attempts to mitigate by constructing fantasy worlds full of wealth and art—it is in many ways sympathetic to Paul’s despair and alienation. The mundane, middle-class world of Cordelia Street and Pittsburgh High School does not know what to make of Paul—in large part, the story suggests, because he is gay. Through subtle and not-so-subtle allusions to Paul’s sexual…

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Money and Wealth

“Paul’s Case” describes Paul’s socioeconomic background as middle-class and his neighbors as “burghers” (a term originally describing people who had to work to make money rather than living off inherited wealth). That term is, in fact, a clue to how Cather wants to both explore and critique Paul’s own disdain for hard work and the need to make a living. For Paul, the need to worry about money at all is depressing and embarrassing: for…

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