Money and Wealth in Paul’s Case by Cather

Pages: 3
Words: 838

“Paul’s Case”

One of the main themes in “Paul’s Case” story is money and wealth. The author describes the protagonist as a representative of the middle class. However, the social and economic situation does not suit Paul, and he wants more. At the same time, Paul’s neighbors are townspeople, those who are forced to work and not live on the inheritance received. Thus, Willa Cather exposes and criticizes Paul’s dismissive attitude towards labor and hard work.

Plot and Setting

The main character is oppressed by his position, in which he is forced to take care of his earnings. Paul believes that sufficient wealth and connections will become a magical elixir and give the young man complete freedom of action. However, Paul’s story shows that there is no easy way to work hard. Therefore, the realistic view of earning money that Cordelia Street burghers have is not as bad as the protagonist imagines.

The author describes Cordelia Street as not the city’s poorest area, but residents have to worry about money. Paul’s family is in the same position, consisting of a young man, his sisters, and their father since his mother died when he was an infant. The family’s poor condition can be seen in those moments when the sisters exchange ways to mend their dresses or wash with soap that smells bad. Paul becomes depressed from such misery and keeps a vial of delicious-smelling purple water a secret from his family. Thus, he shows his values ​​​​as an aesthete and not those forced to survive on Cordelia Street.

However, Paul works as a doorman at Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh with his father’s permission in the story. The young man’s father believes that his son needs to have a job. At the same time, Paul considers his place of work a space of imagination in which he feels truly alive. For the father of the family, one of the main tasks is to guide his son along the path of their neighbor, who holds the position of clerk. Previously, he was considered a bully, but the young man found a job and settled down, having a wife and several children. Ideas about such a life drive the protagonist into horror and depression.

The place where Paul lives, his whole street, reflects the idea of ​​money and wealth. Sad descriptions of the street inhabitants, including the decoration of houses, pot-bellied men, love of arithmetic and counting, and manic similarity with each other, show money’s influence on life. However, such an event as the early death of the family’s mother makes one think that the father needed to start work to support the children. Thus, he strove for financial stability and comfortable existence.

However, the author shows Paul’s unrealistic view of money and wealth. The protagonist does not understand that even the actors he closely watches at Carnegie Hall are ordinary people with families and that acting is a way to make a living. Thus, one can trace his romantic view of the world around him, which will bring him suffering in the end. Paul does not perceive money as payment for his work and binding to work. It shows a plot twist when he commits theft from the company that finances his trip to New York (Cather 5). For Paul, travel and money are good fortunes; he sees them as a ticket to a happier and more prosperous life. Even though Paul’s father returns all the money to his son, Paul does not appreciate this sacrifice and does not think about it.


New York is a symbol of the concentration of power and wealth. The protagonist sees the exposure of his ideas about the power of money in the city and thinks that in New York, they are given without difficulty. However, he cannot imagine a job to earn a living. In his hometown, he enjoyed working as a porter only because it allowed him to live and enjoy the art of music and acting. Thus, by the end of the story, Paul manages to spend all the money he stole from the company.


The irony lies in the fact that Paul does not think that he will have to work to have money to live on one day. This is because there is no causal relationship between wealth and hard work in his head. Paul’s view of life and money is unrealistic and extremely limited, which leads to the subsequent tragedy for him and his entire family. The author describes Paul as a man with a lust for easy money, ironically, he gets it, but it doesn’t make him happy. Paul’s suicide can be described as the result of a concentration of many situations and forces. They are connected with his alienation from the real world due to his orientation. However, to a greater extent, his death is influenced by his desire to have money without making any effort. Thus, the author shows that ideological views of the world can be dangerous and lead to tragic consequences.

Work Cited

Cather, Willa. Paul’s Case. Good Press, 2020.