Paul's Case Thesis

Pages: 3 (1136 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality

Paul's Case

Flowers and Dress as Symbols in Willa Cather's "Paul's Case"Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Thesis on Paul's Case Assignment

In her short story, "Paul's Case," Willa Cather tells a devastating story of a young man so hopeless that he prefers death to the yellow wallpaper of his home. Though the details used to describe Paul as the reader first sees him, standing insolent before his faculty review board, which wishes to suspend him, are harsh, indeed, a Paul with which the reader can more easily sympathize emerges in the later paragraphs. This is a Paul who feels abandoned, lost, and out of his element, a Paul that knows the sweetness of his desire -- knows it closeness -- but cannot taste it. Paul loves music, but feels that his circumstances have all but built a brick wall between his Pittsburg neighborhood and Carnegie Hall. When considering these facts, then, it becomes clear that Willa Cather's descriptions of Paul in the story serve a function much greater than simply casting doubt about his sexuality. Certainly, many details of the story have a homosexual flavor. He wears a red carnation in his button, has an affinity for flowers, and has a great appreciation for dressing. Cather makes sure to embellish the fact that he wears purple, that he has silk underwear, and that he enjoys the flamboyant lifestyle of the theater crowd. His friendship with Charley Edwards, a theater boy about his age, is certainly important to him; and Cather even admits that there "was something of the dandy about him," employing a term that is commonly used to refer to those whose lifestyle has elements of the homosexual in it. For instance, the playwright Oscar Wilde was described by this term. Still, the instances that might be perceived as referring to a homosexual sexual orientation can quite easily be explained as serving Cather's theme of difference in a world where it is not supported. This idea can be best supported through three features from Cather's story -- Paul's affinity for flowers and his dress.

First, Willa Cather does not bring flowers in the story to suggest Paul's sexual orientation, but instead to suggest that he is simply different. In addition, she uses flowers to emphasize the contrast between difference and similarity in the story. Paul's affinity for flowers is well established by the very first paragraph of the story. He attends is suspension hearing with a suspicious red carnation in his buttonhole. Indeed, the flower receives much attention, as the teachers feel it is not "properly significant of the contrite spirit befitting a boy under the ban of suspension" (1). Thus, Cather goes on to suggest that the carnation is, indeed, a symbol that Paul is different. It symbolizes the fact that he does not feel "contrite," or the way his teachers think he should feel in his circumstance. This is further emphasized by the fact that his teachers thought the "flippantly red carnation flower" symbolized his attitude (Cather 4). In addition, Cather uses Paul's desire for "fresh flowers" to contrast his hatred for "everyday things" (19). His entrance into New York is marked by his emergence into affluence, including his ability to send the bellboy down for flowers (Cather 40). At the end of the story, Paul takes his dying flower and buries it in the snow to symbolize his decision to give up on the fact that he is different than his world, the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Paul's Case" Thesis in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Paul's Case.  (2009, March 16).  Retrieved October 19, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Paul's Case."  16 March 2009.  Web.  19 October 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Paul's Case."  March 16, 2009.  Accessed October 19, 2020.