The Conflict Between Conformity and Individuality in Willa Cather's Paul's Case

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The Conflict Between Conformity and Individuality in Willa Cather's Paul's Case Willa Cather’s “Paul’s Case,” displays the conflict between conformity and individuality through the main character, Paul. On a number of occasions, Paul is forced to lie and steal to escape the conformists who wish to control him and stifle his unique imagination. However, his lying, stealing, and attempts to escape the conformists, only force Paul into isolation, depression, and feeling a sense of shame for his individuality. Throughout the story one might see Cather’s constant contrast of individuality versus conformity, as well as Paul’s lying and stealing. Cather seems to draw the conclusion that extreme individuals, much like Paul are simply…show more content…
Paul also openly criticizes conformity frequently throughout the story. Paul’s criticisms can be seen in his detailed observations of people and their routines. However, none of these criticisms compare to Paul’s hate for his home on Cordelia Street. Cather describes Cordeila Street, noting that all the houses are identical, as well as its inhabitants. Following the description of the street, Cather describes Paul’s hatred for his mediocrity plagued home is expressed: “Paul never went up Cordelia Street without a shudder of loathing… he approached it to-night with the nerveless sense of defeat, the hopeless feeling of sinking back forever into ugliness and commonness that he had always had when he came home”(Pg. 5). Later on in the story, while Paul is in New York and is contemplating his fear of being reprimanded for his actions, he constantly reminds himself of the painful existence that awaits him on Cordelia Street: “It was to be worse than jail, even; the tepid waters of Cordelia Street were to close over him finally and forever. The grey monotony stretched before him in hopeless, unrelieved years”(Pg. 13). Cather seems to use Cordiela street as a all-encompassing metaphor for conformist society; and Paul’s individuality and hate for Cordiela Street serves as the contrasting element, in turn becoming the most

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