The story has been called a "gay suicide".
It has been argued that the story revolves around the literary topos of opera queendom, often commingled with a suicidal sense of self-loss.
It has also been suggested that this might be a portrait of Willa Cather's "own desire for aesthetic fulfillment and sexual nonconformity".
The story is also seen as an investigation of the relationship between art and life, which Cather saw to be in "irreconcilable opposition."
James Obertino from the University of Central Missouri wrote an article suggesting Paul suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.