Absolute power corrupts, but lack of power corrupts even more absolutely. Paul feels thoroughly trapped by his teachers, his church, his father, and even his house and street—plus his secret life of lies and omissions. The only way he can see to gain any sort of power is money, and since earning it honestly takes too long, he ends up stealing it. Lack of power is the fundamental tragedy of "Paul's Case." Is this just an amplification of the ordinary teenage condition? Or is Paul's powerlessness something special?
According to Cather, Paul's feelings of powerlessness are rooted in his lack of money.
"Paul's Case" suggests that a greater feeling of power might have prevented Paul's suicide.