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Irony and Symbolism in Willa Cather’s Paul’s Case

Irony and Symbolism in Willa Cather’s Paul’s Case

“Paul’s Case,” by Willa Cather, is a story that deals with a young boy who does not feel that he lives a life befitting of him. Upon a close reading, it is evident that “Paul’s Case” is ruled by irony and symbolism, which are apparent in the story through the words of the narrator. The irony woven throughout the text builds up to an epiphonic moment, a main paradox in the story, which reveals to the reader Paul’s true nature.

Paul believes that everyone around him is beneath him. He is convinced that he is superior to everyone else in his school and in his neighborhood. He is even condescending to his teachers, and shows an appalling amount of contempt for them, of which they are very aware.

In one class he habitually sat with his hand shading his eyes; in another he always looked out of the window during the recitation; in another he made a running commentary on the lecture, with humorous intention.

Paul wanted everyone to think he was better than they were. Not only did he try to dress as if he were rich and important, his very actions displayed a great amount of disdain for everyone around him.

Paul sees himself as superior. He carries himself with a haughty countenance and air about him, apparent in the description “Paul entered the faculty room suave and smiling.” His attempts to portray himself as elegant is obvious in the adornments with which he tries to accentuate his attire: “he wore an opal pin in his neatly knotted black fourin-hand, and a red carnation in his button-hole.” The irony in Paul’s self-delusion lies in the way he is, in reality, seen by the rest of the world. While he thinks that he is dapper and winning in his ornamented garb, t…

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…ft who is actually honest. To Paul, the ultimate place in life is to be a part of the upper class. Paul had to try very hard, and be very dishonest, to convey a certain image so that he would be accepted as a part of that class. At this moment, since the best place to be is the upper class, and if one must be dishonest to achieve high social status, Paul wonders how there can be anyone in the world who is honest because everyone should be striving to be a part of the upper class. As far as Paul is concerned, his deceitful measures were an acceptable means for achieving his goal.

Works Cited and Consulted

Brown M.

Marriage in Vanity Fair

Marriage in Vanity Fair

Many of the characters in “Vanity Fair” are married from the start of the novel, or are betrothed during the novel. The reasons behind the marriage vary from character to character – even within relationships. While some may have love in mind, it is the temptation of money and social status that encourages others to walk down the aisle. The perspectives on marriage also depend on the position in the relationship. Mothers and fathers sometimes have more economic ideals while their children are in love, or even have no regard for each another at all.

The protagonist of the novel, Becky Sharp, laments not having a mother to whom she could leave the arduous task of finding a fiancé. Little is said of the relationship between Becky’s parents. Her father was an artist and her mother a French opera dancer. It is unlikely that, as she was orphaned at a young age, Becky was greatly affected in any way by her parents’ relationship. Perhaps indirectly, she felt that because she was an orphan, her impact on society had to be all the more memorable and successful.

Before so much as being introduced to a portrait of her friend Amelia’s brother, Becky is reasoning with herself, “If Mr. Joseph Sedley is rich and unmarried, why should I not marry him?” Although Becky sees an opportunity to join the Sedley family, initially of some standing in society, Jos’s behaviour is not exemplary for a young gentlemen. Before his drunken behaviour at Vauxhall, he allows Becky to eat a hot chili; an example of how he does not see the pursuit of matrimony as a worthwhile occupation; not a pastime that concerns him, although he appreciates the attention that Miss Sharp pays him.

Sir Pitt Crawley has a similar lack of appre…

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…s desire for advancement in society and wealth attempts to start that relationship, it is Becky’s similar motivations that are responsible for her relationship with Lord Steyne. She considers him to simply be another step up the ladder of society. However, he is inadvertently a clue to what else Becky expects from a relationship. when Rawdon attacks Steyne on his arrival back home, Becky admires Rawdon’s physical strength. Again, this is a more material aspect of a relationship.

The ideals behind marriage differ, often between generations. While parents can see economic and social gain, a situation such as with George and Amelia causes problems when the parents’ meddling results in the children falling in love. Becky Sharp’s use for marriage seems only to be self-advancement. When a relationship ends, her regrets are based on what she has lost, rather than who.

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