Several examples of symbolism are represented in Cather’s story. For example, Paul often wears a red carnation on his shirt. These flowers represent Paul himself. Early in the story Paul wears a red carnation when he talks with his teachers. They see this as him being rebellious, and they would be correct in their assumption. We see the flowers again at the end of the story. By this time the weather is cold and Paul’s flowers have died. Also, Paul buries the flower in the ground before he jumps in front of the train. This is meant to briefly foreshadow that he is going to kill himself.
Cather’s use of color is probably the strongest symbol in the story. Its affect on the mood of the characters is evident as well. We connect the color yellow with the fact that Paul cannot stand his home. He doesn’t like to think of returning to his room and staring at the yellow wallpaper. Later in the story, when Paul is at the hotel, he associates the color red to the man at the desk. He has a red face and a red mouth which are meant to give us a window into his former life. As in many stories, rich and wealthy people are often found wearing the color purple.
He also orders purple flowers for his room at the hotel to feed his lie about being rich himself. Paul is represented by the colors blue and white. He obviously has some emotional issues and these show in his pale face. On the opposite end of the spectrum, white can be a positive color for him. Snow is often present when he is happy. Blue is much more popular than white in the story. The veins on Paul’s face are blue. Paul obsesses over the blue Venetian and the blue Rico, and listens to the Blue Danube. He also mentions a blue sea that he wants to be carried into.
Paul talks about the theater being a “bit of blue-and-white Mediterranean shore,” and we’re also told he pictures the sea before he gets hit by the train. Food is also a popular symbol throughout “Paul’s Case. ” The food in his house disgusts him as does the idea of living there. Paul can’t stand the idea of “ordinary food” and we see that again after he trails the singer back to her hotel. Paul’s life is portrayed as a bland flavorless mass, which I imagine is the way a food critic would write about a bad restaurant. Theme
Paul often shows disgust in many ways and one of them is disgust for the people around him, which ultimately isolates him from society. He gives no credit to anybody and thinks everyone he comes in contact with is painfully ordinary. This sad excuse for a human is the main character in a story that is riddled with themes. These include: Artificiality: Paul would rather live in a dream than face reality. Deceit: Paul lies to others constantly in order to make himself look good. He also lies to himself to avoid dealing with his failures.
Immaturity: Paul acts like a child to attract attention to himself. Ignorance: Paul believes he is better than everyone else. Exaggerated Importance of Money: Paul wants money more than anything and thinks that not having any is the source of all his problems. Distortion of Reality: Paul sees himself as amazing and everyone else at his school and in his neighborhood isn’t worthy of knowing him. Selfishness: Paul only thinks of himself and his needs. Sameness and Monotony: Paul is constantly complaining about how ordinary of everything in his life.
Paul hates the life he has on Cordelia Street, “where all the houses were exactly alike. ” Paul shows his lack of interest in life around him by ignoring his schoolwork, taunting his teachers, and pretending that he personally knows all the theater performers. By playing himself up, Paul shows that he may have some sort of inferiority complex. It is possible that when his mother died that took away the source of love he needed to have a healthy, mature life. Creative: Mini Summary Paul meets with the Principal and his teachers after he has been suspended for a week.
He then goes to work at Carnegie Hall. After the concert he follows some of the singers and marvels at their glamour. Paul longs to be wealthy. Paul makes it clear to one of his teachers that his job there is more important than his lessons. Paul takes a train to New York City and has stolen money for his trip. Paul reads in the Pittsburgh newspapers that the theft has been made public. His father is coming to get him. He doesn’t want to return to middle class life and kills himself by jumping in front of a train.