Cathedral by Raymond Carver: Analysis

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About this sample


Words: 1105 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Jun 9, 2021

Words: 1105|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Jun 9, 2021

In this story, “Cathedral”, Carver teaches how that an individual can share significant experiences and many lessons with those he least expects it and needs it the most.

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‘Cathedral’ is a short story about enlightenment, discovering in oneself something more meaningful and deeper. Although nothing else occurs in the tale from an observational point of perspective, a blind man helps the narrator draw a cathedral. Although as is known, the experience of the narrator varies radically from what is truly ‘observed.’ He is illuminated and open to a fresh globe of vision and imagination. This short experience will have a long-lasting impact on him. The reason for this powerful and positive impact is not so much the connection between the blind person and the narrator, or even the real events leading up to this experience.

At the very start of the tale, the narrator’s declaration describes his own absence of understanding about physical blindness. His absence of understanding concerning the disability of the visitor is undeniable, but he makes it very clear that he is conscious of this ignorance, saying he was not passionate about his visit. He wasn’t that I knew. And I was disturbed by his being blind. My blindness concept originated from the films. The blind moved slowly in the films and never laughed. They were sometimes resulted by dogs seeing-eye. “A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to.” These statements sum up his entire attitude towards Robert (the houseguest) and other blind individuals in particular at the beginning of the tale, giving the narrator an immediate impression of who the narrator is and even what he may be. While there are many undertones about other things he is unaware of, the particular subject of consciousness of personality is the primary idea of the plot of the story, eventually becoming a strong theme.

The story’s introduction describes the connection between the spouse of the narrator and the blind man, explaining how it has developed to its current status. It’s here that the reader can see other instances of the figurative blindness that the narrator is suffering from because of his understanding of the connection between the two that appears to stem from his own disturbing relationship with his spouse. His wife provides him an ultimatum for the blind man’s recognition, saying that if her husband loves her he will do this for me. If you don’t love me, okay. The narrator exudes jealousy over the connection between his spouse and the blind man throughout the tale. Insecurity is giving way to his wife’s disturbing relationship. The narrator revalues his suspect thoughts about the disturbed relationship, and his ultimate private transformation provides way to the foreshadowing of a deep epiphany surrounding the whole tale.

The use of drugs and alcohol throughout the tale contributes considerably to another blindness the topic is unaware of. He is immediately introduced to social drinking once Robert arrives, particularly when he is challenged for his drink selection. The narrator rapidly promotes this investigation by explaining further that he and his wife are carrying a little of all. “It’s one of our pastimes.” Drug and alcohol use is defined in the plot from this stage on. The narrator’s ultimate enlightenment is a direct consequence of the mindset brought about by his use of marijuana. Indeed, his drinking and drug use can be ascribed to many of his described issues. After smoking a cannabis cigarette, the impacts of these practices are shown very well as the narrator and Robert talk straight: “I reached for my glass. But it was empty. I tried to remember what I could remember.” This exact portion of the dialogue accurately describes that of someone who is under the influence of a foreign substance. Once presented, the negative effects of drug usage on the characters are obvious throughout the story.

His further ignorance of the blind is concentrated on Robert as he is conscious of his forthcoming visit. Hearing Robert’s marriage stories from his wife, the narrator couldn’t understand how a lady could love a blind guy, ‘It was beyond my comprehension. Hearing this, I felt a little sorry for the blind person, and then I thought what a pitiful life this lady had to lead’ (508). This ignorance and immature knowledge of relationships overshadow his unwanted and condescending attitude towards Roberts ‘ visit. His attitude towards the blind man seems to alter as they draw the cathedral together before and during the association they create. While there is no evidence that the overall ignorance and prejudice of the narrator is gone from the experience, it is very clear, however, that he comes to some sort of revelation and enlightenment, ‘My eyes were still closed. I was at my house. I knew that, but I didn’t feel like I was in anything’. Because what the protagonist draws is a cathedral, it is only assumed that this illumination that the narrator experiences has to do with Christianity values, in this situation it would be a realization of equality and treating individuals with love, little is said about the impacts that this revelation has on him. The narrator emerges as a fairly shallow personality throughout most of the brief tale. He comes off as callous and unimaginative in addition to his stereotyping tendencies.

After the wife falls asleep, the story climaxes and the two people are lastly permitted to talk to each other. It is at this moment that the narrator ends up seeing the blind man’s attitude and ideas, leading straight to his own private conversion. When Robert asks if the narrator is religious or not, his ambiguous answer is “I guess I don’t believe in it. In anything. Sometimes it’s hard. You know what I’m saying?” leads the reader (and Robert, as well) to see that this man is in need of something which means more than physical blindness. It leads the reader (and Robert, as well) to see that this man is in need of something which means more than physical blindness.

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The reader becomes aware that this blind man feels it necessary to help the narrator both mentally and emotionally, bringing justice and understanding to a man filled with petty ideals. Once Robert has fulfilled this deed, the narrator begins to understand that certain positions of his are, and always has been, wrong, leading to an ultimate revelation towards change. Many among society today have a minute understanding of what it is to truly see, that this initiative is more than physical viewing and bases itself mainly on emotional understanding, for instance, figuratively seeing what is inside other people, what they feel and how they think. 

Works Cited

  1. Carver, R. (1983). Cathedral. In Cathedral: stories (pp. 3-22). Vintage Books.
  2. Dowling, J. (2001). Raymond Carver and the grotesque. MFS Modern Fiction Studies, 47(3), 609-635.
  3. Ford, R. (1999). The landscape of absence: Robert Stone, Raymond Carver, and the reinvention of masculinity. Contemporary Literature, 40(4), 614-648.
  4. Gallagher, T. (2009). Conversations with Raymond Carver. University Press of Mississippi.
  5. Lentricchia, F., & Zeitz, L. (Eds.). (1995). After the New Criticism. University of Chicago Press.
  6. Lye, J. (1996). Some notes toward a definition of minimalism. Style, 30(2), 210-226.
  7. O'Connor, F. (1992). A good man is hard to find and other stories. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  8. Pugh, A. J. (2001). Sound and symbol in Raymond Carver's 'Cathedral'. Style, 35(4), 637-655.
  9. Runyon, R. (1990). The compulsive storyteller: Raymond Carver, audiocassette, and the hygiene of reading. The Georgia Review, 44(3), 670-681.
  10. Stull, W. L. (1985). The eye of the story: Raymond Carver and the cathedral. Studies in Short Fiction, 22(3), 313-317.
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Cathedral by Raymond Carver: Analysis. (2021, Jun 09). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 7, 2023, from
“Cathedral by Raymond Carver: Analysis.” GradesFixer, 09 Jun. 2021,
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