Analysis of Willa Cather's Paul’s Case: A Study In Temperament

Willa Cather - An author of the frontier with a disdain for the 'artistic temperament'

Willa Cather, as an author, might be assumed to show a great deal of compassion to a sensitive young adolescent who yearns for a better, more beautiful life of the arts rather than life hunched in an office bench. However, Willa Cather's 1905 short story "Paul's Case: A Study in Temperament" does exactly the opposite. Rather than sympathize with the young man, Cather portrays him as a self-fixated, indulgent individual more interested in the luxurious and false trappings of art than the true hard work of creating real art. Paul shows no effort or initiative, except in stealing. He is 'rewarded' for ...

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being educated in the decidedly non-Eastern, non-urban local of The University of Nebraska. (Ahern, 2003) The idea of Paul as a medical 'case' also suggests that he is a psychological case study of something gone wrong, a warning rather than an object of pity, much less identification in the mind of the reader. Do not behave like Paul, else you suffer and succumb to the same fate, even if you too fancy yourself an artist, Cather warns her reader by implication.
The idea of the danger of the traditionally romanticized artistic process, of artist living apart from the world in enslavement to the muse, runs through many of Cather's short stories. In three of her other short works, written around the time of "Paul's Case," a protagonist whose intellect or ability distances him from society has a featured role. However this supposedly special ability (at least, as viewed in the often deluded mind of the central character), whether it be academic as in "The Muse," or the power ...

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that here it would be impossible for anyone to humiliate him." (Cather, 1905, accessed at http://www.unl.edu/Cather/works/short/index.htm) Paul confuses being able to afford nice clothing and to appear handsome and 'artistic' with truly being talented at artistic pursuits. Because he feels separate from the world because of his laziness and love of artistic, fine things, he assumes he is different from a common thief.
The 'case study' of Paul the thief is not the only effete idealist present in Cather's fiction. In her other short story, "The Willing Muse," the more professionally successful, but still emotionally stunted protagonist is described as thus: "He had been so long ...

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Added: 4/22/2016 04:16:14 AM
Category: English
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