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The story is about Paul (the protagonist), a seemingly deeply troubled Pittsburgh teenager who finds it very hard to accept and fit to the conventional society, or real world, at least. This is demonstrated by his escape to Carnegie Hall and later fleeing to New York in search for his perceived fine culture, beauty and freedom, and from where he later commits suicide on realizing that he could not live his fantasy life and had to return to a life he hated.

The author, though not explicitly, tends to hint that the misery of Paul has a strong foundation on his underlying, at least, confused sexual identity. The protagonist's flamboyant style of dress, his manner of gaze, his strong liking for opera and many other traits described by the author point toward some kind of non-standard masculinity.

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The sense of detachment and dislike of the world portrayed by Paul could be a mix of boredom and loathing for the realistic world. From another perspective, Paul's problem could be his perspective of dullness of his "normal" bourgeois life, rather than his sexual non-conformity. Deep within Paul's heart is a romantic dream of finding the fancy life of arts (such as operas and theaters), beauty and glamour, and which is completely different from the "normal world". He brags about luxurious trips, and the autographs he has, is interested in how people look and smell, and hates the tacky yellow wallpaper in his bedroom. He is very uncompromising because when he can't find a solution to his fantasy world in New York, he hastily commits suicide.

Although Paul tries to cut for himself an image of a calm and collected teenage boy through his permanent smile, his fear of rats and darkness as well as his desire to fit in with the 'in' crowd paints him as a bit too childish or even immature.

In my opinion, the author wanted to bring to light the difficulties of people whose sexuality makes others nervous and uncomfortable, and at worst makes the people who don't fit a particular societal expectation wish they could escape society permanently. On the other hand, I think Paul's case can also be interpreted as the plight of sensitive artists, who find themselves torn between the need to survive in a work-ethic society and the desire to follow a "finer" life.

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