Generation of 1898 Short Fiction

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Compare and contrast the parent/child relationships in the stories "Paul's Case" and "Great Falls."

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In “Paul’s Case,” Willa Cather presents the boy as limited in part by not having a mother, as she is deceased. Paul’s father is unsympathetic to his son’s problems and short on insight. He is clearly concerned about his son's behavior but seems not to understand his personality. He decides that Paul should be prevented from doing what he enjoys and forced to take up a practical occupation: instead of studying and working at the theater, he will now work full-time in the store. Paul’s adolescent rebellion is anything but complete, however; rather than adapt successfully to the new regimen, his acting out accelerates into crime. Paul steals money from his father to finance his trip to New York, and he never sees him again.

A significant difference between the two stories is that Jackie, the protagonist of Richard Ford's “Great Falls,” survives to tell the tale. His perspective as an adult allows him to understand the significance of his parents’ relationship and the effect their break-up had on him. The father in this story is another difference. While he also tries to impart appropriate manly values onto his son, he is an erratic, emotional man who almost kills the mother’s lover, Woody. Another difference is that in Jackie’s case, he has a mother into his teens, and then she leaves while he stays with his father. This is a contrast to Paul, who was the one to leave—first his home, and then his life.

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