Paul is a Pansy: the use of flower imagery in Paul's Case by Willa Cather

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When the average person reads "Paul's Case" by Willa Cather, they interpret a story about a depressed teenager who steals money, runs away to New York City, and commits suicide. On the surface there is little reasoning behind Paul's decisions. The reader cannot fully understand Paul's motivation until the story is considered on a deeper level. Upon further observation, Cather creates numerous references to flowers within Paul's mundane life. This was not done carelessly--the flowers …

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…blooms and then dies. He truly bloomed while in New York City, "one splendid breath" (64), but like all flowers, that beauty, resilience and charisma must eventually come to an end. Paul got his chance to bloom, but he was wilting the whole way to the train. Willa Cather's flower imagery puts Paul's life in terms that everyone can understand, without most readers even realizing. Next time I pick a pansy, I'll be thinking about Paul.