In "Paul's Case," what are Paul's troubles and how do they contribute to his suicide?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The troubles that Paul faces in this excellent story are not so much real troubles so much as Paul's own completely realistic expectations of life and his inability to accept the life that has been given to him. Let us remember how he lives his life in the theatre, where he revels in the ability to escape his relentlessly middle-class background which he feels confines him so strongly. Consider how his attraction to the arts is expressed:

He needed only the spark, the indescribable thrill that made his imagination master of his senses, and he could make plots and pictures enough of his own. It was equally true that he was not stagestruck--not, at any rate, in the usual acceptation of that expression. He had no desire to become an actor, any more than he had to become a musician. He felt no necessity to do any of these things; what he wanted was to see, to be in the atmosphere, float on th wave of it, to be carried out, blue league after blue league, away from everything.

Paul's problem then is his inability to control the force of imagination within him and keep it in check so that it does not replace reality. Paul deliberately courts a world of illusion constantly so that when he makes his escape to New York and is able to live his life the way that he imagines it, finally achieving the illusion he has sought for so long, the thought of being dragged to his middle-class roots and community is so terrible there is no escape but suicide.


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