Paul's Case

Plot summary

When Paul meets with the principal and his teachers from Pittsburgh High School after he has been suspended for a week, they complain about his agitation in class, and about his apparent repulsion of other people's bodies. He then goes to work at the Pittsburgh Carnegie Hall but he is early, so he just tarries in the picture gallery. He then proceeds to usher in the audience. After the concert he follows some of the singers and marvels at their glamor. He then walks back to his house but decides to sneak into the basement. Being so late in coming home, he fears that his father will think him an intruder and possibly try to kill him.

Paul despises the "burghers" on his respectable but drab street, and is unimpressed by a plodding young man who works for an iron company and is married with four children, although his father would like to use him as a role model for his son. However, while Paul longs to be wealthy, cultivated and powerful, he lacks the stamina and ambition to even attempt to change his condition. Instead, Paul escapes his humdrum life through visiting Charley Edwards, a young actor, and works as an usher at Carnegie Hall. Sometime later, as Paul makes it clear to one of his teachers that his job there is more important than his lessons, his father prevents him from continuing to work there.

Later, Paul takes a train to New York City. He now works for Denny & Carson's and has stolen a thousand dollars for his trip. He buys an expensive wardrobe, checks in at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, walks around the city, and meets a young San Franciscan who shows him around the nightlife until morning. His few days of impersonating a rich, privileged young man bring him more contentment than he has ever known before. On the eighth day, however, when most of the money has been spent, Paul reads in the Pittsburgh newspapers that the theft has been made public, and that his father has returned the money and is now on his way to New York City to fetch his son. Unable to face a return to his dull, middle class life, Paul kills himself by jumping in front of a train.


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