The Gauge Of False Grandeur In Paul's Case

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Cather's “Paul's Case” is about a boy who is unsatisfied with his unremarkable life, lies constantly, and acts out to make his situation more appealing to himself and present to others a facade of false grandeur. The story focuses on how Paul is unsuccessful in school, whose actions and attitude disappoint his teachers and father, but manages to find ways to escape his droll life by working as an usher at a music hall where he interacts with musicians and actors, and eventually steals money from his employer to run away to New York for an escape of luxury and high living. Cather implies that Paul will be happier and better behaved if he is allowed large amounts of money and is given the finer things in life, although he has little regard for how he attains…show more content…
This is Paul's motivation to lie constantly and to steal from Denny & Carson's and run away to New York. Paul frequently reflects on his own death, imagining the circumstances of his father mistaking him for a burglar and shooting him, bringing or buying a gun in New York to provide a way to “snap the thread”, and finally when he resolutely plans to and actually does jump in front of a train. Paul's teachers hold him in disdain and view his “contrite spirit” is “symbolized by his shrug and his flippantly red carnation flower” which he wears in his buttonhole. When Paul is dismissed from his meeting with his teachers, they see his graceful exit bow as “a repetition of the scandalous red carnation.” The red carnation Paul wears may symbolize his desire to be unique and that he feels he is in a class above others and one who loves art and music. Carnations had before been used by the famous poet Oscar Wilde to symbolize an alternative lifestyle that included frivolity and excess. In Oscar Wilde and the Green Carnation Beckson writes the carnation Wilde wore was an “emblem of his extraordinary uniqueness” (395). This certainly exemplifies Paul's view of himself. Beckson further details that

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