Paul’s Case sample essay
The title character in the story “Paul’s Case” is interesting to me in the emotional dichotomy he displays outwardly compared to his true inner feelings. His projected image toward his teachers and peers is that of aloof confidence, as though he is unaffected by those around him and their reactions to his “various misdemeanors”. He displays this both in his appearance, “His clothes were a trifle outgrown, and the tan velvet on the collar of his open overcoat was frayed and worn; but for all that there was something of the dandy about him, and he wore an opal pin in his neatly knotted black four-in-hand, and a red carnation in his buttonhole.
This physical appearance successfully attempts to show he did not feel “contrite spirit befitting a boy under the ban of suspension. ” Unfortunately for Paul this aloofness had lost whatever sense of appreciation or admiration it once had for the faculty which had provided Paul opportunity to continue his behavior, his actions had eventually worn thin the patience of the faculty and this came to a head during the meeting in the Principal’s office. “His teachers felt this afternoon that his whole attitude was symbolized by his shrug and his flippantly red carnation flower, and they fell upon him without mercy”.
Paul further fostered this image of aloofness with his response to his English teachers complaint of a reaction to her reaching out to guide his hand and his recoiling as being an “insult was so involuntary and definitely personal as to be unforgettable. in one way and another he had made all his teachers, men and women alike, conscious of the same feeling of physical aversion”. Paul’s response to this accusation of discourteousness was, I don’t know,” he replied. “I didn’t mean to be polite or impolite, either. I guess it’s a sort of way I have of saying things regardless. Over time this attitude displayed by Paul evoked frustration in his teachers but in the Principal it evoked quite a different reaction, one that provided what was some much needed sympathy.
The Principal explained this to the frustrated faculty thusly, “I don’t really believe that smile of his comes altogether from insolence; there’s something sort of haunted about it. The boy is not strong, for one thing. I happen to know that he was born in Colorado, only a few months before his mother died out there of a long illness. There is something wrong about the fellow. This statement from the Principal brought about a feeling of shame to the faculty, the felt “humiliated to have felt so vindictive toward a mere boy. ” This brings us to the inner feelings of Paul himself, what his real life experience was and how that affected him.
When Paul returned to his reality, a feeling of “nerveless sense Of defeat, the hopeless feeling of sinking back forever into ugliness and commonness that he had always had when he came home. The moment he turned into Cordelia Street he felt the waters close above his head. Paul’s living situation dictated how he actually felt as a human being, this was “absolutely unequal. ” The house itself brought about these feelings with its appearance, “his ugly sleeping chamber; the cold bathroom with the grimy zinc tub, the cracked mirror, the dripping spiggots. The unequal feelings were compounded by the appearance of his Father, “his hairy legs sticking out from his nightshirt, his feet thrust into carpet slippers. ” These feelings of being “absolutely unequal” were what drove Paul to escape to New York and experience a world of which he was wholly unfamiliar.
His first step in this world was to raise his outward appearance so as to appear equal to those he would encounter in this unfamiliar world. “After he reached the Twenty-third Street station, he consulted a cabman and had himself driven to a men’s-furnishings establishment that was just opening for the day. He spent upward of two hours there, buying with endless reconsidering and great care. His new street suit he put on in the fitting room; the frock coat and dress clothes he had bundled into the cab with his linen. Then he drove to a hatter’s and a shoe house.
His next errand was at Tiffany’s, where he selected his silver and a new scarf pin. ” When the crime Paul committed which had financed his week plus of living the New York high life was publicized, the feelings of desperation, inequality and fear returned like a tidal wave, drowning the temporary elation of the past weeks extravagance. Paul had lived in that world before and knew once he returned, there is where he would stay, with this knowledge Paul chose to have his last memories of life be those of his fantasy world on Broadway in New York, stepping into the path of an oncoming train assured this would be the case for Paul.
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