Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" Symbolism

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 692 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Aug 24, 2023

Words: 692|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Aug 24, 2023

Table of contents

  1. The Cathedral as a Metaphor for Connection
  2. Shared Creation and Understanding
  3. A Transformational Moment
  4. A Sanctuary of Connection
  5. An Awakening of Emotional Awareness

The use of symbolism in literature has the power to imbue narratives with layers of meaning, evoking emotions and inviting readers to delve into deeper interpretations. In the case of the short story "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver, the cathedral itself emerges as a multifaceted symbol that enriches the themes and character dynamics within the narrative. Through the depiction of the cathedral, Carver navigates the complexities of human connection, perception, and transformation, inviting readers to explore the intricate interplay of the visible and the invisible.

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The Cathedral as a Metaphor for Connection

The cathedral's symbolism is introduced subtly but significantly early in the story. As the narrator's wife connects with a blind man named Robert, the husband is initially wary of their connection. The arrival of Robert, who has never seen a cathedral, triggers the exploration of not only the physical structure but also the realm of the unseen. The husband's inability to fully understand his wife's relationship with Robert highlights his own emotional blindness, symbolizing his narrow perspective on life and relationships. The cathedral, in this context, becomes a metaphor for the uncharted territories of empathy and connection that the narrator is hesitant to explore.

Shared Creation and Understanding

The physical description of the cathedral's depiction serves as a focal point for the narrative's themes of perception and understanding. As the husband and Robert sit together to draw the cathedral, the narrator begins to describe the process to Robert. However, he soon realizes that mere visual descriptions are insufficient to convey the cathedral's essence. This realization prompts the husband to guide Robert's hand in drawing the cathedral. Through this act of collaborative creation, the symbolism of the cathedral deepens, representing the unspoken bond formed between the two men. The drawing process becomes a metaphor for the shared experience that bridges the gap between their different worlds.

A Transformational Moment

The story's climax, when the husband closes his eyes alongside Robert, signifies a transformative moment of enlightenment and connection. While their physical eyes remain closed, they share an intimate experience that transcends visual perception. The cathedral, which has now evolved into a vessel of shared understanding, embodies the potential for personal growth and the expansion of one's emotional horizons. The husband's ability to overcome his initial reservations and connect with Robert on a profound level demonstrates the cathartic power of breaking down barriers and embracing vulnerability.

A Sanctuary of Connection

The significance of the cathedral's symbolism is underscored by its portrayal as a place of refuge and revelation. The husband's initial skepticism and discomfort are replaced by a newfound sense of wonder as he immerses himself in the process of describing the cathedral to Robert. This transformation mirrors the larger theme of personal growth and the expansion of one's emotional landscape. The cathedral's portrayal as a sanctuary of connection contrasts with the husband's earlier sense of isolation, suggesting that human relationships hold the potential to transcend barriers and offer solace.

An Awakening of Emotional Awareness

In the final paragraphs of the story, the cathedral's symbolism comes full circle. As the husband opens his eyes, he acknowledges his limitations but also recognizes the possibilities for connection that lie beyond them. The cathedral, which once seemed distant and unfamiliar, now represents the awakening of his emotional awareness. The narrative's resolution serves as a testament to the power of human connection and the transformative journey from isolation to empathy. The cathedral, in its symbolic role, encapsulates this evolution, inviting readers to reflect on their own capacity for growth and understanding.

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In conclusion, the Cathedral Symbolism essay exemplifies how symbolism can enrich a narrative by encapsulating complex themes and emotions within a single metaphorical entity. Through the depiction of the cathedral, Carver masterfully explores the dynamics of perception, empathy, and transformation. The cathedral becomes more than a physical structure; it serves as a vessel for connection, personal growth, and the uncharted territories of emotional understanding. As the husband's perspective evolves, so too does the cathedral's symbolism, reflecting the profound impact of human connection and the potential for inner transformation. Just as the husband's perception shifts, the cathedral invites readers to embrace their own capacity for growth, empathy, and the exploration of the invisible threads that bind us all.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” Symbolism. (2023, August 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” Symbolism.” GradesFixer, 31 Aug. 2023,
Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” Symbolism. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” Symbolism [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Aug 31 [cited 2024 Feb 25]. Available from:
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