What do you think of Paul’s responses to the challenges he faced so far in the story? Did he handle it well, did he “blow it,” did he do about as well as could be expected?
He was a child who wanted to be a saint, a blue-collar worker, a devoted servant of the urban poor, a journalistic success, and a dissolute libertine. To illustrate your view, select several events from his life. Be sure to cite the text to demonstrate your reading.
There are two basic kinds of challenge: his own individuality, and the historical situation. He – like the rest of us -- has to come to terms with both of these. Personally, he’s unusually bright and talented, he’s attractive to (and attracted by) women, he has plenty of attitude, and he has strong religious interests. Historically, he’s a working-class Slovakian Catholic in a period when the whole cultural world – both the US culture and the Catholic Church (Second Vatican Council) -- was changing. Neither the US (civil rights, feminist movement, general questioning of authority) nor the Catholic Church (liturgical reform, individual dignity and liberty, social justice), has “recovered” from this upheaval.
(If you don’t share his religious interests, then simply look at the situation from a pragmatic, existential point of view: that is, what is one going to think about life and its meaning, and what is one going to do?)
Remember, if you are inclined to be hard on him, that he had to work with the personality he had. Some of us are not alcoholics, for instance, but that is not a particularly impressive virtue: our own makeup is simply not susceptible to that; it’s not something to brag about. Book is “in Due Season” A catholic Life by Paul Wilkes