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Paul had never been content with his life in a small house on Cordelia Street in Pittsburgh. His mother died years, leaving him no recollection of her. His father was abusive and had high expectations of Paul. Unfortunately for both of them, Paul did not want to live up to these expectations. He had no care for school, and behaved disorderly and audaciously. He did not get along with his teachers or peers. He lacked respect for teachers, insulting them in ways that would lead to his being expelled and forced to work in an office against his wishes. He lied to his fellow classmates in order to impress them, telling them that he was a friend of the performers he admired at Carnegie Hall. Paul had no concern for his education or fitting in with his classmates; instead, he desired the glitz and glamour of wealthy upper-class society.
A description of Paul’s personality might give one a false impression of his physical appearance. He talked back to teachers, stole money, and lied to his classmates. His appearance, however, contradicted his personality. He was tall and thin, with white teeth, and to some, he had almost a feminine façade. “His eyes were remarkable for a certain hysterical brilliancy, and he continually u sed them in a conscious, theatrical sort of way, peculiarly offensive in a boy” (141). His eyes were described to “glitter,” and the most unusual aspect of his appearance was the flower he had worn in the buttonhole of his coat at the meeting between him and his teachers. “There was something of the dandy to him,” (141) and he stood up with confidence at an event that should have provoked some fear in him.
As an usher at Carnegie Hall, Paul admired the performers and wished that he could be a part of that life. He referred to Carnegie Hall as “his secret temple, his wishing-carpet, his bit of blue-and-white Mediterranean shore bathed in perpetual sunshine” (148). He stood outside of the Schenley, a hotel where all the actors and singers stayed, watching people go in and out of it. From there, he longed to be a part of their high society and “leave schoolmasters and dull care behind him forever” (144). For the passing moments that he actually saw the performers, he would be satisfied. Cather clarified, “he was not stage-struck- not, at any rate, in the usual acceptation of that expression. He had no desire to become an actor, any more than he had to become a musician. He felt no necessity to do any of these things; what he wanted was to see, to be in the atmosphere, float on the wave of it, to be carried out, blue league after blue league, away from everything” (149). He wasn’t satisfied with his own middle-class life and unfortunate family troubles. When he ran away to live in New York City, he felt this would be his only opportunity to live the glamorous life that he had always dreamed. In order to achieve this, he stole money from the office where had been assigned to work. He then spent most of his money on new clothing and arrangements at the prestigious Waldorf hotel.
Paul lived a life of depression and desire to be someone he could not be. He felt like an outsider; he did not fit in with anyone, including the world the so desired to be a part of. He despised his abusive father and their house, which he believed he was too good for. For the brief time that he was living in New York City, before his father came to look for him, he blocked out his past. “When the roseate tinge of his champagne was added- that cold, precious, bubbling stuff that creamed and foamed in his glass…This was what all the struggle was about. He doubted the reality of his past. Had he ever known a place called Cordelia Street…” (153).
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