Paul's Case Themes

Paul's Case Themes

Rebellion Against Conformity

Paul’s case is one of raging against the powers that be. Perhaps, though, he is just another rebel without a cause. One thing is for sure: the very thought of ending up living a life of middle-class conformity terrifies him more than the concept of the abyss. Staring into the abyss at the end gives him a change of mind that arrives too late, but up until that point, every action and thought indicates an artistic temperament out of joint with bourgeois convention and the looming specter of spiritual death in suburbia that waits like a demon in Paul’s distant future.

The Poseur

Paul fancies himself a Bohemian in his rejection of middle class values and in his presentation to the rest of the world as a sophisticated aesthete. The truth, however, is that Paul really is not as sophisticated as he would like to think and the presentation may be more external persona than an actual insight into his interior. An argument can be made that Paul’s temperament is really that of the poseur whose façade masks the fact that he is deceiving himself every bit as much as he is fooling others.

The American Dream

Two versions of the American Dream come into conflict in this this story. The first is that which has been pursued by Paul’s father leading to the modest success of a middle class lifestyle that is perhaps permanently obstructed from rising higher up the ladder of success. This is the world Paul wants to escape because of that obstruction which prohibits enjoyment of the finer things in life. It is the version of the American Dream which promises a certain level of security and economic satisfaction, but denies access to the loftier states of the dream that has been made real by other. Paul’s excursion to New York offers him a taste of that more decadent aspect of the American Dream which tempts with the lure of luxury rather than mere security and the chance for economic wastefulness rather than simple satisfaction.

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