A Sociological Insight on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Roles in the Short Story Paul’s Case by W. Cather

A person's personality and way of life are typically greatly impacted by the social alienation of their society. However, some of these social norms are harsh and tend to prevent young people from following their hearts' desires. Consider Paul's circumstance in Cather's short story Paul's Case. The young man experiences extreme loneliness as a result of being stigmatized for his love of art and sex alienation. (Worthen, 2012).

An individual's right to justice and equality in society

An individual has the right to justice and is treated equally to other people in the society if they do not interfere with the peace and the rights of other people. Being bisexual or homosexual should be once a choice, but other communities take it to be a joint decision (Frieze & Dittrich, 2013). Nevertheless, the topic still faces a heated debate and therefore there is a need for a critical insight into it and providing equality and justice for everybody in the community. This paper will discuss the adverse effects of discrimination due to sexual orientation of an individual in the society drawing close reference from Willa Cather's short story; Paul's Case. The protagonist suffers from psychological stress resulting in his death.

Social Discrimination stemming from Sexual Orientation of an Individual

Homosexuality is usually a sensitive topic, and many people tend to avoid an argument surrounding it. For many years, the society has persecuted and oppressed the individuals involved arguing that homosexuality is disgraceful, abnormal and ungodly (Worthen, 2012). Consequently, the victims end up being isolated and prejudiced for an extended period leaving them to live in solitude (Frieze & Dittrich, 2013). Cather provides evidence of the societal tendency of branding certain sexual alienation as abnormal in the character Paul in his short story Paul's Case (Worthen, 2012). Paul, a young schoolchild, is homosexually alienated, something that makes him uneasy for long in his life. He struggles to hide his sexual inclination towards men; Paul focuses on his love for art, especially on paintings and music. However, love for art does not please his father, and the two become great foes, making him run and resettle in New York.

The author mentions that Paul has an interest in homosexuality but has not shown it publicly, however, one may argue that his close attention to the male members of the music team at Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh is enough evidence. He becomes suspicious that he is being discriminated against for his homosexual interest and this makes him rebel from everyone around him.

The Psychological Impact of Injustice on an Individual's Behavior

The author also depicts injustice to the protagonist, since he is summoned to face the disciplinary committee at school. Subsequently, he is not given a fair hearing due to the formed opinion the members of the board have about his character (Frieze & Dittrich, 2013). In some cases, the society may tend to offer justice to its members, but the decision is marred with personal feelings and van deter. Approaching a judgment hearing with a formed opinion may adversely influence the outcome of the process (Gready & Robins, 2017). The disciplinary committee does not give Paul a fair trial by not allowing him to defend himself. In the text, as Paul enters the hearing after serving a suspension, and all members tend to feel that he loathes, they are contemptuous of him (Gready & Robins, 2017). They genuinely believe that they repulse Paul and thus all lash out at him. After the hearing, the protagonist escapes to the Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh and resumes his work to be an usher. Paul is a sociological outcast and, therefore, has no option but to bury himself in the art, and it explains his reason for joining Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh to get a chance to listen to the symphony.

The Right to Choose Personal Interest in the Society

The civil right of individuals in society has been widely ignored especially in Paul's Case. One ought to make a choice on what economic activity to participate in and their hobby and interests (Shively, 2013). These aspects are, to a large extent, personal, and therefore an individual should not be coerced by his family or the society on which one to take. Such stern societal regulations tend to push most people away from the society to gain the freedom of choice. However, such moves lead to more frustrations and may adversely affect the life of a person.

Cather depicts the situation in Paul's Case through the character Paul. After feeling that he is not wanted both at home and in school, he steals some money led by the desire to be free and live a lavish life and takes a train to New York. He splashes these funds in the city, ending up buying a gun (Shively, 2013). However, he later realizes that the theft has been discovered at Pittsburgh; his father is out to find him, in New York. The fear of the possible consequences of his actions pushes him to take his life by jumping in front of a moving train (Shively, 2013). Before he dies, he admits that his actions were wrong, especially the love for money, which made him steal. The rejection by the society, including his father, subjects Paul to significant psychological torture to the extent that he is unable to face the real life out of shame and loneliness. This mental disturbance is the main reason for his suicide.


To sum up, Cather's story proves the way the society treats its members to force them to make regrettable decisions. The failure by the community to embrace its members as a result of their sexual and professional alienations only work towards isolating them. The prejudice against Paul in the story Paul's Case ends up costing him his life as he felt unwanted and lonely (Frieze & Dittrich, 2013). He could not express his gay tendency and disdain for other people in society, and instead, he chooses to indulge in artwork to hide from the reality in society. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the community to embrace the individuals with different sexual alienation and behavior and give them an opportunity to change. If it could have been done for Paul, he could not have ended up dying.



Frieze, I.H., & Dittrich, S. (2013). Publication of research in sex roles on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) issues. (Sex Roles), 68(11-12), 635-638. Retrieved on June, 2013 from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257663748_Publication_of_Research_in_Sex_Roles_on_Lesbian_Gay_Bisexual_Transgender_and_Queer_LGBTQ_Issues

Gready, P., & Robins, S. (2017). Rethinking civil society and transitional justice: lessons from social movements and ‘new’ civil society. (The International Journal of Human Rights), 21(6), 1-20. Retrieved on May 8, 2017 from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13642987.2017.1313237

Shively, S.B. (2013). Cather studies 9 : Willa Cather and modern cultures ed. by Melissa J. Homestead and Guy J. Reynolds. (Western American Literature), 48(3), 363-364. Retrieved on Fall, 2013 from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/526122/pdf

Worthen, M.G. (2012). An argument for separate analyses of attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual men, bisexual women, MtF and FtM transgender individuals. (Sex Roles), 68(11/12), 703-723. Retrieved on April 4, 2012 from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11199-012-0155-1

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