The Impact of Physical and Social Environments on the Protagonist
In “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather
TRU ID: T00040004
Dr. Don. Stanley
Dated: April 15, 2015
The different physical and social environments in “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather profoundly influence the behavior of the protagonist, Paul. The hostility Paul feels at school, his boring social life at home, his dream world in the Carnegie Hall and his final escape to the New York City all contribute to Paul’s isolation from the ordinary world and lead him to his suicide.
Cather introduces the protagonist in the first physical environment, the school. It is here that Paul is interrogated by the school board for his “various misdemeanors” (Cather 235). This meeting presented an opportunity for Paul to show remorse for his mischiefs and to display a behavior appropriate enough so that he could be allowed back in school. However, Paul showed persistence in his defiance of school authority and “his teachers left the building dissatisfied and unhappy; humiliated to have felt so vindictive toward a mere boy,” (Cather 237). Paul is introduced as a troubling young man who despise his teachers and school for not being up to his dream standard which causes his teachers at the meeting to “ fell upon him without mercy, his English teacher leading the pack” (Cather 236). Their hostility towards Paul contributes to his expulsion from school and his further isolation from the ordinary world.
The Carnegie Hall Theater is another physical environment where Paul works as an usher. The beautiful arts, dazzling colors of lights and splendid performances in the Carnegie hall has a great impact on Paul’s behavior. It helps Paul to escape stress of boring daily life at home and school to the extent that he even forget the “nastiness of his teacher’s being there” (Cather 238). Paul takes a great pleasure in his job, theatrical scenes, being around actors and people of high social standings. “He was always considerably excited while he dressed, twanging all over to the tuning of the strings and the preliminary flourishes of the horns in the music-room” (Cather 237). However, the Carnegie Hall has a delusional impact on his mind set in that it cater to his imaginary world of luxury as if it is a reception and Paul is the host without any aspiration to be part of the performers (Cather 237).
Another physical environment is Paul’s father’s house on Cordelia Street where Paul lives. Paul resents to live in the house with such unbearable living conditions. “The nearer he approached the house, the more absolutely unequal Paul felt to the sight of it all; his ugly sleeping chamber; the cold bathroom with the grimy zinc tub, the cracked mirror, the dripping spigots; his father, at the top of the stairs, his hairy legs sticking out from his night-shirt, his feet thrust into carpet slippers” (Cather 239). It seems that