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Paul's Case: A Study in Temperament

Paul's Case: A Study in Temperament

by Willa Cather

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Bueller? Bueller??

"Paul's Case" starts with Paul getting the business from his teachers about being rude, insolent, and just basically not the way they expect a good student to be. 

Conflict

Art vs. Life

Paul loves his job at Carnegie Hall. So where's the conflict? Well, he might love it a little too much. Plus, it makes home and school look extra ugly. And of course there's the other perspective: Paul's father and community don't quite trust art or artists and don't approve of his hanging around down at the theater.

Complication

What, No Child Labor Laws?

Paul's dad has had just about enough of his rebellious kid. He yanks Paul out of school and puts him to work at some big firm, where he even has to go in on Saturdays. Oh, and he forbids him to go to the theater or hang out with BFF Charley Edwards.

Climax

Bright Lights, Big City

Maybe letting Paul take care of the bank deposits wasn't the best responsibility to assign him. As soon as he gets the opportunity, he steals three thousand dollars and puts his fantasy New York City vacation into action.

Suspense

Park Avenue Prince, At Last

It's a relief for Paul when he makes it to New York City, since he can finally put on fancy clothes and relax. But it's not too relaxing for us, since we're just biting our nails waiting for him to get busted.

Denouement

Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come for You?

Explanation/Discussion: Now Paul really feels like he's out of options. He puts on a brave face, though, and tries to enjoy the last bit of his vacation. Still, he can't sustain the fantasy. The reality of his situation is too strong.

Conclusion

Splat.

Okay, sorry to be graphic, but that's basically what Cather does at the end here. Paul throws himself in front of a moving train.

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