The Short Story “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver

A literary examination or analysis is a form of paper that expresses a viewpoint regarding a piece of literature, generally a manuscript or short story. A literature review makes a statement about a work of literature, then supports and reinforces it with evidence and arguments from the work’s literature components, such as irony and metaphor, key themes, and implicit concepts. The text Cathedral by Raymond Carver encompasses the concepts of envy, insecurity, solitude, separation, and connection, as well as the manner people can face transformation and change.

Raymond Carver, an American author, writer, and novelist, created the short storyline Cathedral. Following the completion of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Cathedral was the first narrative composed by him. In the second part of the twentieth century, Raymond Carver was a well-known and qualified writer from the United States of America (Wenjing, 2020). He was a major figure in modern literature, having been considered one of the best American short storyline authors and the one who provided significant contribution to the resurgence of the short story style (Wenjing, 2020). Mainly, Cathedral is a narrative about a frustrated man who learns innovative methods of seeing after meeting his wife’s blind acquaintance. It is a narrative about three individuals who desperately require each other and adjust to connect in various circumstances.

In order to be able to discuss and analyze the core concept and idea of the writing, it is essential to firstly summarize the key notions related to the initial setting and events. Emphasizing plot and characters, Cathedral, by Raymond Carver, begins with an inner monologue in which the speaker confesses his reluctance to host Robert, a blind person who is a companion of the narrator’s spouse. The narrator recalls the conditions that led to his spouse and Robert becoming acquainted. In need of funds and engaged to her first partner, his wife accepted a summer work as a social laborer’s assistant. Robert questioned the narrator’s spouse if he may see her by caressing her face towards the end of summer, and the encounter was unforgettable for the narrator’s spouse. The author also describes how his wife sought out to Robert for help following a failed attempted suicide motivated by her unhappy marriage.

When the author stops his internal monologue, he tends to make cynical comments about Robert’s disability and asks his spouse if he should invite Robert go bowling. She resists and begs him to be courteous to Robert, who is staying with them for the night after seeing his recently departed wife’s relatives. The narrator makes derogatory remarks about Robert’s spouse, and the narrator’s irritated wife recounts Robert’s engagement to his former wife Beulah (Carver, 2009). The female had worked for Robert during the same summer as the narrator’s spouse. Soon after, they engaged and the narrator then reflects on this marriage, imagining how painful it must have been for Robert’s spouse to be overlooked by her husband.

To mention the main ideas that can be found in the writing, it is feasible to underline the aspects of envy, insecurity, solitude, separation, and connection are prominent in Raymond Carver’s Cathedral. The storyline is told from the first-person perspective by an anonymous individual, and the reader can sense the narrator’s disconnection from the outset. Not only is he annoyed that Robert is coming for a visit, but the audience obtains the impression that the author is also envious of his wife’s relationship with Robert (Carver, 2009). Robert’s presence is viewed as an annoyance by the storyteller in general. In addition, the storyteller seems to have a significantly narrow perspective on blindness due to his unethical comments. This is paradoxical and ironic because it is via Robert’s advice that the author learns to view things in a new way later in the narrative. The second option, on the other hand, posits that the narrator eventually opens his eyes to the reality around him towards the end of the narrative.

The reader assumes that the author is envious of his wife’s closeness or connection with Robert, much as he is of his wife’s previous spouse. It should be stated that he never reveals the audience the first husband’s name, despite the fact that he had the option. It is probable that the writer is still suspicious of his wife’s previous spouse, as he is of her connection with Robert. The narrator’s lack of confidence in Robert is also shown in his unwillingness to listen to one of Robert’s recordings that mentions the narrator (Carver, 2009). It is as though the narrator would rather not know what Robert thinks of him than hear anything he could find offensive. In fact, in this setting and story’s context it is feasible to highlight the issues of detachment from others. Hence, the aspect of connection between people can result in the emergence of situations, in which people will exhibit their internal feelings and beliefs. At the same time, these beliefs and values, whether they are true or fake, can potentially change due to unexpected occurrences.

The cathedral that the storyteller designs and depicts is also noteworthy figuratively. A cathedral is a sacred space where people may pray and connect with God. In other respects, the author is also forging a link by painting the Cathedral. He seemed to be capable to see for the first occasion for a long period of time. In the conclusion of the narrative, there is a hint of irony and perspective. Despite the fact that the author’s eyes are shut and he is being guided by a blind person, he can see. The writer does not say what the storyteller observes, but it is possible to suggest that there is a notion that he made a contact and is no longer distant or alone.

The storyline of a conceptually blind narrator’s close and transforming meeting with a physically blind person can also be considered as an interpretation in Cathedral by Raymond Carver. It is a conversation in which the storyteller transforms from someone who does not trust in anything to an individual who can find purpose in his or her existence. This process of transformation occurs due to an internal need since specific drawbacks were present. Cathedral‘s idea is related the fundamental challenges of mediation, including a deep-seated perception of a non-mediated existence, as well as the clear contrast between blindness and awareness (Lungeli, 2021). In other terms, it should be noted that the story is not solely focused on one concept or life activity.

Concerning the global idea encompassed by the writer, it can be stated that the aspects of modernism are present. Cathedral, a short writing by Raymond Carver, depicts the alienation and instability of the human soul caused by modernity and modernism (Wenjing, 2020). When talking with others, Carver believes that knowing and respecting the differences between oneself and others allows the solitary individual to properly communicate with their society and social partner outside of the family (Wenjing, 2020). The underlying contact between the individual and others is reconstructed via sincere tolerance and understanding of others, which has been projected as a method of communication (Wenjing, 2020). Furthermore, the spiritual difficulty may be resolved, and human beings’ mental habitats can be restored to achieve human society’s comprehensive ecological culture (Wenjing, 2020). This is important for the development of modern ecological society and the attainment of man-nature harmony (Wenjing, 2020). Modernism was founded on an idealistic view on human society and culture, as well as a positive outlook on progress, or forward direction. Thus, the author introduced the concept that highlights human interactions as a factor of influence regarding social life and prosperity.

The style of Raymond Carver’s Cathedral is informal, and the tone can be considered as casual and conversational. It is as though the narrator is speaking directly to the audience, recounting a personal experience or a specific life occurrence. Irony is a figure of speech or literary method in which what seems to be happening or anticipated on the surface contrasts dramatically from what is truly the case. Concerning the presence of irony in the story, it is feasible to emphasize a concrete detail. The irony of the narrator’s assessment is that despite the fact that he can see, he is unable to make his beloved partner and wife happy. Since he can see, the narrator believes he is better prepared to make his wife satisfied and happy than Robert.

Until the point of painting, the storyteller had exempted himself from creative engagement while the audience of the narrative was involved in the definition of sense. The finale of this text evokes both a fleeting interaction and the prospect of a new and lasting meaning of reality and life. In the field of development, “sustainability” denotes a transformation that happens not just in the setting of a revelatory event, but also in the framework of the perceived essential structural and real support. The narrative may not be intended to imply that art provides significance, a meaning that lights life, but rather that artwork, in the form of creation, makes existence manageable in moments. Only that painting has provided the husband a period of serenity, a sensation of being in a realm not eclipsed by any other, as far as his eyes stay closed. The narrative has a commencement, middle, and finish not due to the incidence of development, but since it depicted a fleeting, not inevitably permanent, period of undivided attention.

To summarize, Cathedral’s author describes the story of a disappointed person who discovers new ways to see after meeting his wife’s blind acquaintance. It is a storyline about three people who really need each other and adjust to connect in different situations. Raymond Carver’s short story Cathedral depicts the alienation and instability of the human soul as a result of modernity and modernism. Sincere tolerance and understanding of others, which has been projected as a form of communication, are used to recreate the underlying interaction between the individual and others.


Carver, R. (2009). Cathedral. Vintage Classics.

Lungeli, D. (2021). Super-cripple sights: Disable heroes in Raymond Carver’s Cathedral and Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. SCHOLARS: Journal of Arts &Amp; Humanities, 3(1), 103–112.

Wenjing, X. U. (2020). Cathedral from the perspective of reconstructive postmodernism. Studies in Literature and Language, 20(3), 142-146.

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