How does Willa Cather portray innocence and experience in "Paul's Case"?

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janeyb eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Paul's Case is an interesting statment on innocence and experience because Willa Cather mixes the two in all of her characters. She does this by making what is innocent to one, experience for another. Paul, for example, may be innocent, but to his teacher's he is a threat, his experience (that they perceive) makes them wary. Paul, though, can not be considered an experienced character. He lives only in Philadelphia (and breifly in New York), he knows only that which he tries to (the theatre) and remains innocent to the rest of the world. It is only right before he commits suicide that he sees this innocence for himself "the adriatic water, the algerian sand." Cather makes sure that issue of innocence and experience is the last thing that Paul thinks of.

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revolution | Student
Paul has never experience the outside world before and so he expressed his innocence to the outside people, but in his heart, he was full of experience and knowledge. To his teachers, he was not at all "innocent" that people think he was as he was a dreamy and lazy adolescent who wants to taste the outside environment. But in the outside world, his "innocence" was not really true or accurate as he can be easily attracted to the world of music, dance and theater but disdains the monotonous, stark reality of life in New York. He dreams of expensive designer labels and shirts from popular brands, staying at a grand hotel, watching operas. His innocence is finally exposed to the world when his committed crime was exposed, he could not take in the facts so as not to suffer public embarrassment from his family members and himself, he commit suicide by throwing himself onto the tracks when a oncoming train is approaching, showing his alienation from the outside world, which finally shows his "innocence" in full angle and gives this story a tragic and sad ending.
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