Paul's Case Questions and Answers
by Willa Cather

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In "Paul's Case," account for the drastic difference in Paul's behavior at school and his behavior at Carnegie Hall.

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Paul is a sensitive, imaginative boy who views his daily life as drab and stifling, as he longs instead for a world of beauty and romance. School for him is "repulsive," a horror with its "bare floors and naked walls," filled with his teachers whom he finds dull and unattractive:

. . . the prosy men who never wore frock coats, or violets in their buttonholes; the women with their dull gowns, shrill voices, and pitiful seriousness about prepositions that govern the dative. 

Paul rejected his real world and all of its conventions in favor of the beautiful, glamorous world he found in the theater:

It was at the theater and at Carnegie Hall that Paul really lived; the rest was but a sleep and a forgetting. This was Paul's fairy tale, and it had for him all the allurement of a secret love. The moment he inhaled the gassy, painty, dusty odor behind the scenes, he breathed like a prisoner set free, and felt within him the possibility of doing or saying splendid, brilliant things. The moment [the orchestra began playing], all stupid and ugly things slid from him, and his senses were deliciously, yet delicately fired.

For Paul, his real world "always wore the guise of ugliness," while the world of Carnegie Hall was for him "alluring," a place that allowed him to be who he was, without fear of criticism or rejection:

It would be difficult to put it strongly enough how convincingly the stage entrance of that theater was for Paul the actual portal of Romance.

The stark contrast between Paul's behavior at school and his behavior in Carnegie Hall emphasizes the extent to which he is trapped in his own unbearable life.



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