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Paul's Case: A Study in Temperament

Paul's Case: A Study in Temperament


by Willa Cather

Analysis: Writing Style

Visual, Dramatic

Visual and dramatic—sounds a lot like Paul, doesn't it? Let's take a look:


This is an easy one. Cather paints lots of vivid little pictures for us, like Paul's red carnation, or his red robe, or his wacky facial expressions. Check out this passage, which includes three different kinds of visuals blended together:

He reflected upon the mysterious dishes that were brought into the dining-room, the green bottles in buckets of ice, as he had seen them in the supper party pictures of the Sunday World supplement. A quick gust of wind brought the rain down with sudden vehemence, and Paul was startled to find that he was still outside in the slush of the gravel driveway (1.17)

Overall, we are getting a description of Paul standing outside the fancy hotel, in the rain. We also get a visual description of the inside, but only as Paul imagines it. This fantasy isn't just pulled from thin air, but comes from another type of visual: photographs of the insides of hotels from the newspapers.

Way to write, Willa!

Or how about this one? When Paul is listening to the orchestra tuning up, the narrator describes him as "twanging all over to the tuning of the strings and the preliminary flourishes of the horns in the music-room" (1.12).

"Twanging," a nice example of onomatopoeia, shows us the physical effect the music is having on Paul. And all these vivid, visual descriptions really highlight the narrator's sense of the…


Some people go to dinner, they eat, and they go home. How was the restaurant? "Fine." Not Paul. Check out this description of his fantasy dinner at the Waldorf:

The flowers, the white linen, the many-coloured wine glasses, the gay toilettes of the women, the low popping of corks, the undulating repetitions of the Blue Danube from the orchestra, all flooded Paul's dream with bewildering radiance. (1.51)

These descriptions and images create a multisensory, dramatic description of the scene, one that even Paul reacts to by sinking "back into one of the chairs against the wall to get his breath" (2). We've got popping corks, pretty ladies, and even a soundtrack. And then Cather really ups the stakes with words like "flooding" and "radiance." See, this is no ordinary dinner. This is rich people dinner.

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