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Paul's Case: A Study in Temperament

Paul's Case: A Study in Temperament


by Willa Cather

Paul's Case: A Study in Temperament Theme of Lies and Deceit

Paul is living—well, sadly, dead—proof that the truth will out. We never know exactly what he's hiding, but it seems pretty bad. At the same time, Paul doesn't seem to be a very good liar. Everyone knows something is up with him, even if they—like us—never know quite what it is. And what's weird is that Paul actually feels most honest when he's living on borrowed time in New York. So here's the question: Which part is a lie—Paul's dreary life on Cordelia Street? Or the high-flying fling on 5th Avenue? Does "Paul's Case" suggest that lies can actually be more honest than the truth?

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. What is Paul doing that he needs to lie about it to his father? Is he just out partying, or is there something more?
  2. Why does Paul feel like he doesn't have to lie anymore once he gets to New York City? How can he feel this way when his New York City life is based on lies?
  3. What might Paul have done that isn't "pretty to watch" (2.42)? Are there enough clues in the story to even guess what Paul is talking about?
  4. Some critics think Paul is trying to keep his sexual orientation a secret, that Paul might be gay, bisexual, or otherwise not meet the norms of male behavior in his community. Other critics say that there is nothing in the text to support any claims about Paul's sexual identity. Which argument seems more correct?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Cather implicitly suggests that Paul is hiding his sexual identity.

"Paul's Case" suggests that lying becomes the cause rather than the effect of Paul's secret.

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