In "Paul's Case," is Paul a static character or a dynamic one?

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In Willa Cather’s story, Paul is a dynamic character. He is a teenager who is experiencing numerous developmental issues that are compounded by his personal situation.

Cather shows the changes that Paul undergoes in part through his physical relocation to another city. While the boy is an outsider with...

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In Willa Cather’s story, Paul is a dynamic character. He is a teenager who is experiencing numerous developmental issues that are compounded by his personal situation.

Cather shows the changes that Paul undergoes in part through his physical relocation to another city. While the boy is an outsider with artistic interests, when “Paul’s Case” begins, the reader has no reason to believe that he is anything other than an honest, straightforward person. The alienation he experiences at school environment propels him to seek another environment where he feels more comfortable—the theater.

During the course of the story, however, we see Paul’s behavior change for the worse: he steals money to finance his escape and lies about being wealthy. No real clues are presented earlier to indicate he was suicidal, but at the end, apparently driven by fear, he takes his own life.

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Paul is a very dynamic, complex character, so much so that this story is often studied from a psychoanalytical point of view in an attempt to understand this child’s problem. He neither dresses nor acts like a normal child his age, as we see in the first paragraph when he walks into the principal’s office “suave and smiling” dressed in clothes too fancy yet not fitting him properly: he had outgrown them. Such is Paul, in fact, for he fits into nothing at all, except the world of the theater, which is his “fairy tale.” The narrator explains that “in Paul's world, the natural nearly always wore the guise of ugliness [so] that a certain element of artificiality seemed to him necessary in beauty.” This is because he doesn’t feel he fits in, and also because his father wants him to be more, different--a typical, successful young man. The more he goes to the theater (where he is an usher), the more hateful school becomes. Finally, his father pulls him out of school, he is refused entrance to the theater, he is forced to get a job, but then he runs away from everything. In the end, he kills himself by throwing himself onto a train, a rather gruesome ending, but for him a way to drop “into the immense design of things” and escape forever the mundane world. Dynamic character? Yes, I think so, for his state of mind deteriorates significantly from the beginning to the end.

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