Comparison of Paul's Case and Nikolas Cruz

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Despite the fact that all human beings are biologically different, they are those who share similar traits and habits. There are instances whereby, although certain individuals not related in any way, will tend to have similarities in regard to their behaviors and personalities. Such individuals are Paul and Nikolas Cruz; Paul is the protagonist, an idealistic, lying and suicidal young man in Willa Cather story, Paul’s Case. Paul looks down nearly on everyone he comes across and he fits nowhere (Czernicki, 242). Nikolas Cruz was the perpetrator who murdered seventeen students and left many others wounded in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on 14th February 2018. Even though Paul and Nikolas shared a similar fate; their behaviors contrasted. Paul made his dream a reality while Nikolas fought his reality of bullying and depression. In turn, both of their choices and obsessions led to a personality disorder. This paper attempts to analyze their individual behaviors and characters.

Narcissistic personality disorder

A narcissistic personality disorder is a situation whereby an individual highly regards themselves than those surrounding them whether in relation to cognitive abilities or physical appearance. Such individuals will feel more self-important culminating in disrespecting others. These individuals unintentionally end up pushing other persons out of their lives making them live in solitude. Both Paul and Nikolas had no friends. They felt that everybody surrounding them especially their peers, is against them. This can condemn such individuals to depression and prone to bitterness, whereby they will react violently at the slightest provocation (Saari, 389). While others will commit certain acts such as stealing, this will further isolate them from their peers.


Paul feels contempt for his family members, neighbors, classmates, and teachers, all of whom he sees as hopeless narrow-minded individuals. He moves through his world awkwardly never fitting in anywhere or ever feeling comfortable in his own skin. As a result, Paul distances himself from everybody who in reality could help him out of self-destruction. He has an unrealistic dream that the art world is an ideal fantasyland for him and he uses art as a sort of drug to escape his dreary existence (Saari, 389). Paul believes that art is all he needs even though he has no desire to join the art world he admires; he enjoys other persons performing. He constantly lied about his friendship with actors in order to gain acceptance and superiority over others as well as to make himself seem important.

Although Nikolas Cruz had no real family since he was adopted at birth and adoptive parents had died before this incident, he still pushed out those who were close to him such as his sibling Zachary Cruz, his relatives and few friends he had. His academic achievement whereby he maintained As and Bs, had made him win multiple awards. These achievements and his multiple talents deceived him to regard himself more important than others (Kraft, 1). He could make humiliating and even violent jokes about others. His former classmates at Marjory Stoneman described Cruz as a sadist who would not shy away from making life uncomfortable for them. In his schooling years, he was expelled and transferred to a number of schools due to his unruly behaviors to his peers. As such, students avoided him and his pool of friends shrank as well as his social life.


Consequently, for such individuals to survive, they must develop ways of coping with the situation. Since friends have abandoned them in their imaginary state of self-importance over others, individuals such as Paul and Cruz have to find other things which can offer them solace. To avoid the judgment of narrow-minded people in the real world, Paul found consolation in the theater where he fantasized art. He spent a lot of time at the theater facilities enjoying art which took him away from his dreary existence (Czernicki, 242). Through his deception of association of famous actors, Paul felt that he was experiencing his ideal life. Interactions in the theater, gave Paul the necessary peace of mind without rebuke as his friends would. Thus, because art, as performed in the theater, does not offer judgment, Paul would exaggerate his self-importance with pleasure.

Deprived off the social life by an imaginary state of self-importance, Cruz was condemned to spend the majority of his time alone and playing with guns. Being alone would not expose him to what he perceived as unfair treatment by his peers, whom he thought that could not accept that Cruz was more important than them. Playing with guns satisfied his ego, something that he did not get from his friends. Even before the incident in Marjory Stoneman, investigations revealed that Cruz had a prior history of violence (Quinn, 1). For instance, he had threatened the boyfriend to his ex-girlfriend that he was going to watch him bleed and that he was going to shoot him. His social media accounts were full of violent threats. This was enhanced by the fact that the things individuals find consolation in determine how they will react when provoked. If those things are dangerous, then there is the likelihood that such individual will react dangerously.


In search of ego satisfaction, individuals resort to activities that make them feel normal and help them achieve their dreams. These individuals become obsessed with their new found source of happiness to an extent that they fail to think about the impacts of their actions on others. They revel in such newfound fantasy to an extent that they end up making choices that condemn them to ultimate fate (Quinn, 1).

Paul is class-conscious and reserves his approval for rich people and longs to be rich as he believes that great wealth is his destiny. He fantasizes how he would live his life after he has accumulated wealth leading him to do what he can to live his dream life of riches and elegance. He sees money as an all-important ingredient of life which he should have so as to match his imaginary states of self-importance. To actualize his imaginations, Paul steals money from the company he works for and goes to New York to live out this dream. He spends the entire amount on a lavish spree in New York leaving him more destitute than he was before he stole the money (Czernicki, 245).

On the other hand, Nikolas is obsessed to sate his lust for death. He filled his social accounts with violent threats to those who did not share similar ideologies. Nikolas actively participated in the activities of the white supremacist group the Republic of Florida which include militia activities to fight for the values of whites (Kraft, 1). Although several narratives have been developed to explain his mass shooting at the school, his history of violence indicates that he was very prone to extremely violent reaction at the slightest provocation. The fact that Nikolas did not try to hide after taking the lives of students at his high school indicates that he did it with an intention which to sate his lust for death.


Even after living a lie, the reality will always emerge to individuals. They leave their fantasies and account for their actions and choices. After Paul had spent all the money he had stolen, he realizes that his dad is on his way to New York to get him. However, since the fantasies were too good to be a lie, he does not want to go back to normal life especially with the people he had lived to despise. Consequently, Paul takes his own life when all his reasons for unhappiness, loneliness, and alienation converge and lead him to leap in front of a moving train (Saari, 389).

For Nikolas, taking the lives of his fellow students was not a big deal because investigations revealed that he had all along contemplated of seeing someone bleed. Investigations discovered that Nikolas had inscribed the words, “I hate niggers” on his backpack. After the incident, he did not try to hide but he instead went back to his normal life as if nothing had happened. When he is finally arrested, Nikolas willingly surrendered to the authorities and faces the judgment from the law and society. Social scientists agree that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior (Quinn, 1).

Works Cited

Czernicki, Martha. "Fantasy and Reality in Willa Cather's PAUL's CASE."Explicator, vol. 75, no. 4, Oct-Dec2017, pp. 242-247. EBSCOhost,

Kraft, Sheryl. “Inside the Mind of Nikolas Cruz and Other Mass School Shooters.” CNBC, CNBC, 16 Feb. 2018,

Quinn, Joe. “Florida School Shooting: A Culture of Narcissistic Entitlement and Resentment.”,, 18 Feb. 2018,

Saari, Rob. "'Paul's Case': A Narcissistic Personality Disorder, 301.81."Studies in Short Fiction, vol. 34, no. 3, Summer97, p. 389. EBSCOhost,

December 12, 2023
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Literature Review

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