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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 Wealth

In the steel-obsessed Pittsburgh of "Paul's Case," money makes the world go 'round, and not just Paul's world. His father, peers, and neighbors are all obsessed with money in their own way. But is it money that they want, or is it the good things money brings—whether the financial stability that Paul's father craves, or the beautiful things that Paul admires? After all, Paul is certainly not poor. His clothes may be a little old, but it seems like his father must be forking over a chunk of change to send him to a good school, and even the narrator mentions that the guy's not poor. Wealth seems to be Paul's proxy for life that's extraordinary rather than mundane—even if newspaper descriptions are the only access to it he's had.

Questions About Wealth

  1. Is Paul just a shallow guy who values money over human beings, or is his obsession with money a cover for a deeper issue?
  2. How do Paul and his father view wealth differently? Are there ways in which they might agree?
  3. Paul believes that wealth equals power. Is his belief borne out by the story?
  4. Is Paul really interested in art, music, and beauty, or is he only interested in them because they signal the presence of wealth?

Chew on This

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

Full of "descriptions of New York hotels" (2.65), Paul's scrapbook shows that Paul values money and things over people.

"Paul's Case" suggests that Paul's primary problem is his failure to realize that true wealth does not lie in money.

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