How Physical And Social Settings Contribute To A Story

646 words - 3 pages

How physical and social settings contribute to a story?

In the short story “Paul’s Case” written by Willa Cather, there are certain physical and social settings that the story revolves around in order to contribute to its overall meaning. These attributes will help contribute to the characterization of Paul. The protagonist in the story is Paul; who feels lost in his own world that exists in Pittsburg. Paul looks down on most of the people he knows, and craves attention from people within the art world. When Paul is forced out of the only parts of Pittsburg that he feels comfortable and accepted, he escapes to New York City to find solace for his remaining days. Why are his days numbered? Socially, Paul doesn’t fit in with the people in his regular life and seeks solace in deceiving people to think he is someone he is not. It is these settings that help identify the ...view middle of the document...

Had the author chosen two similar cities it would have been difficult to relate to Paul’s addiction to the art world, and his repulsion for the middle class world he wanted so badly to disassociate from.

Paul’s lies and deceptions eventually catch up with him and the people he seeks approval from find it comical, while his father forbids him from being anywhere near the places and people that Paul wants to be. This leads to Paul eventually stealing money from his employer and he escapes to New York City. It is in New York City that Paul will spoil himself with expensive clothes and meals while he stays in an expensive hotel. This contributes to the story’s meaning by helping identify Paul’s desperation to escape his unwanted life and continue a life that can only exist based on lies and deceptions. The social settings that help contribute to the story are those of Paul’s desires to associate him with certain classes and types of people. ”Paul was startled for a moment, and had the feeling of wanting to put her out; what business had she here among these fine people and gay colors?” (Cather, 2006, p. 238). This helps emphasize Paul’s ill feelings towards others that are not as cultured as he would like. While Paul has grown up in a middle class environment his entire life, he feels alienated and wants something different. He feels that he can only exist in an art world and will escape there whenever possible. After he runs out of money and finds out that his theft has been found out, he decides that he would rather kill himself than go back to a life that he despises.

Social and physical settings contribute to a story and helps with characterization. The contrasting physical and social settings clearly define the struggles that existed in Paul’s life. Without the contrasting settings it would have been difficult to relate to Paul and to comprehend the situation that he was in.

Cather, W. (2006). Paul's case. In P. Simon (Ed.), The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction (7 ed., pp. 235-249). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

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