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The story begins with a meeting between Paul and a few school officials. Throughout the meeting, Paul continues to smile displaying a lack of emotion towards the situation.
The symphony begins and Paul immediately loses himself in the music; "the instruments seemed to free some hilarious and potent spirit within him." In this scene, Paul seems to long and crave for the glamorous lifestyle the soprano lives. Also, the soprano seems to act as a mother figure for Paul throughout the story.
Paul walks down Cordelia street while taking note of the houses. Paul feels disgust towards the ordinances of the neighborhood, paralleling his disgust of the similarities within all societal members, as a whole.
While Paul is sitting on his porch, his father is speaking to a young clerk who was "daily held up to Paul as a model." Paul, depicted as a smaller figure in this image, feels that his father will eventually become disappointed in Paul, and resent him. Paul, throughout the story,shows how he does not believe his father is satisfied with Paul as a son, and at times, even thinks he wants Paul dead.
Prior to Paul's suicide, Paul buries the carnation. Because the carnation is often a flower used at funerals, the burial of the carnation foreshadows Paul's 'burial' of himself.
At the end of the short story, Paul jumps in front of a train to his death. Paul, at this point, has become what he thought society had always viewed him as: nothing.
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