In "Paul's Case," Paul's father could have made a big difference in Paul's life. What are some things he could have done as a parent?

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At the turn of the 20th century, when Willa Cather published “Paul’s Case,” there were fewer resources available to parents whose children were not fitting in at their school. Paul’s father decided to remove his son from school completely. Most likely, he assumed that Paul would adapt to his new...

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At the turn of the 20th century, when Willa Cather published “Paul’s Case,” there were fewer resources available to parents whose children were not fitting in at their school. Paul’s father decided to remove his son from school completely. Most likely, he assumed that Paul would adapt to his new environment and responsibilities. Instead, Paul rebelled more strongly against work than he had against school and left home.

Even without access to counselors and psychologists, Paul’s father could have consulted other professionals, such as a pastor, priest, or other family members. He might have talked with the staff at the theater to gain more perspective into Paul’s work there. Rather than pull Paul out of school, he could have hired a tutor to work with him individually or transferred him to a different school. More than anything, opening the lines of communication would probably have benefited both father and son.

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Paul fears his father, who shows little affection for his son. At one point Paul is afraid his father might “accost” him, and at another we see the father hold up as a model of behavior for his son a young man who is “ a clerk to one of the magnates of a great steel corporation”—in short, the very kind of person that Paul is not, indicating Paul’s father does not love his son for who he is.  Paul is afraid to ask him for money, and the only reason he tolerates Paul’s job as an usher is that he thinks “a boy ought to be earning a little.” Paul’s father needed to  foster a closer relationship with his son by asking him why the theater fascinates him so much, by taking him to some shows so that they could watch them together so that the father would understand why these fascinate his son. He needed to provide books that interested his child, for the reading material at home Paul finds boring and uninteresting. Rather than put him to work at his own company when Paul leaves school again, where people make fun of him, Paul’s father could have helped him find a job that would have been appropriate. In short, in all the ways we want our fathers to show love for us, Paul needed his father to show love for him:  by understanding his son as an individual, by listening to his problems and not making fun of him, by finding time to do things together—all would have had a significant impact on Paul’s life.

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