Paul's case is a short story written by Willa Cather first published in 1905. It looks into the dangers of art and the struggles of artists in the commercial world. Cather, in the story, portrays a young man who loves beauty and believes that money can change his identity. It is about Paul, a student at Pittsburgh High School, who is disinterested in class work and would rather be at the opera. He is summoned by the principal and his teachers after being suspended for a week. The teachers complain of his unrest and disturbance in class. In his life, Paul lacks the stamina and ambition to change his situation from being a middle class citizen to that of a rich and powerful young man. Later, he finds a job at Denny & Carson, but steals some cash and travels by train to New York City where he spends most of the money through impersonating a wealthy privileged young man. But the theft is soon discovered and his father travels to New York to find him after paying for the debt. However, Paul commits suicide by jumping in front of a train because he did not want to go back to the former life which he saw as boring. Paul's Case story has been called a 'gay suicide'. In my own opinion, Paul's behavior may not be that of an undisciplined young boy, but the teachers did not understand him. I feel there was a much bigger problem affecting his life that could have been solved by the services of a psychologist.
At first, Paul seemed to be an agitated fellow, but later in the Carnegie Hall, he looks so composed and displays his love for art and music. This story could as well be about the trope of opera queendom which often ends up in a suicidal sense of self-loss. It also shows Willa Cather's own desire for artistic fulfillment and sexual nonconformity. I can say that the environment in which Paul grew up contributed to his 'strange' behavior. The environment has a lot in influencing how we live. We are governed by our own free will and do anything we desire to do. For example, we can decide whether to commit suicide or not.
The story brings out a sensitive adolescent who is so much into music and theater more than the classroom environment. It shows how many people love art and music. However, the insensitive commercial society leads the young man to steal so as to enjoy the pleasures of this life. At long last, he commits suicide. I think Willa Cather wrote the short story so as to bring to attention the conflicting life of the youth and how the society has neglected the youth and the existing social problems affecting them. Instead, the society looks at them as being indiscipline. I feel inspired by Paul's case story, though in a negative way. I feel sorry for Paul that he had to take his own life due to the pressures that he felt closing on him. He wanted to live a decent life where he could get everything he wished for, yet he had no capacity to do just that. This story speaks for many youths who face various challenges while growing up, either in school, at home or at work. No one seems to give them attention, guidance or counseling. For one to commit suicide he/she must have given up in life and is seeing no hope anywhere.