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Identity In Paul's Case By Willa Cather

Decent Essays
Whether they are prosperous or destitute, the conditions of an individual's life, past and present, play a major role in shaping their identity, as well as their goals for the future. While it cannot constrict their fantasies, a person’s situation does limit their ability to achieve them. As this robs them of their hope, it easily causes a sensation of imprisonment and it is only a matter of time before they lash out. In her short story, “Paul’s Case,” Willa Cather demonstrates that when an individual, who is trapped by circumstances that suppress his dreams, attempts to escape and create a false sense of reality that he feels entitled to, he bases his identity on a lie and only increases his frustration as things spiral out of control. Paul,…show more content…
Unaware of what Paul really desires, his father already has a goal in mind for his life. However, the role model his father has chosen as the embodiment of Paul’s future repulses him. While Paul’s paragon works his way to success, Paul has “no mind for the cash-boy stage” and only wants the triumph of wealth. His father’s aspirations cause Paul to believe he is a disappointment, which is seen when he entertains himself with the idea of his father wishing him dead. Because they amplify Paul’s sensation of drowning in the monotonous Cordelia Street, Paul tries often to escape the nightmare of his father’s dreams. To Paul, reality is just a bad dream he wants to wake up from. Searching for freedom, Paul tries to separate himself from the life of Cordelia Street even in the smallest things, like using violet water to get rid of the kitchen odours on his hands. At places like Carnegie Hall and the theatre, Paul is able to shake off the “lethargy of [the] deadening days” at home and school. In his false reality, Paul surrounds himself with artificial beauty because to him “the natural nearly always [wear] the guise of ugliness.” This is why wealth and luxury are so appealing to him - they are unnatural to him. Every rehearsal he attends allows his imagination to take over and provide temporary relief from his conditions. However, each brief escape increases the ghastliness of his
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