literary analysis essay for cathedral

Raymond Carver

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A Summary and Analysis of Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral’

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

‘Cathedral’ is perhaps the most widely studied of all the short stories of Raymond Carver (1938-88). The story is narrated by a man whose wife has invited her friend, a blind man named Robert, to come and stay with them. Although he is initially uncomfortable and even scathing about their guest, the narrator eventually bonds with Robert and comes to realise something valuable.

You can read ‘Cathedral’ here before proceeding to our summary and analysis of Carver’s story below.

‘Cathedral’ : plot summary

The story is narrated by a man whose wife has been friends with a blind man named Robert for years, even longer than she has been married to the narrator. The narrator tells us that his wife has invited Robert to come and stay with them, after he has visited his late wife’s family in Connecticut.

The narrator outlines some of the history between Robert and his wife: how she had taken a job which involved reading to a blind man, in order to earn some extra money while her boyfriend, who later became her first husband, was going through officers’ training school. Then he tells us how, when his wife’s first husband graduated and was posted to various places around the country, his wife kept in touch with Robert, with the two of them sending audio tapes to each other which shared their latest news.

He also tells us how, in time, his wife’s first marriage broke down and she got divorced from her army husband. He also hints at a home-administered abortion, which implies that his wife was already having doubts about her long-term future with her husband. She also wasn’t enjoying the places where her husband was being posted to, and life as an army wife clearly didn’t suit her. Eventually, she met the narrator and now they are married.

Meanwhile, her friendship with Robert became stronger and stronger. Robert himself married a woman named Beulah, who died. The narrator is quite naïve and mocking about Robert and his blindness; he appears to be jealous of the close bond Robert and his wife have shared over the years. When Robert shows up, his wife is very friendly and welcoming towards him but the narrator doesn’t quite know how to interact.

However, during the course of the evening, over dinner and whiskey, the narrator and Robert slowly start to bond. When his wife goes upstairs, the narrator offers to roll a joint for himself and his guest, and Robert, keen to try something new, agrees to smoke with him. When a documentary programme about European cathedrals comes on the television, the two of them start to discuss it.

The narrator tries to describe a cathedral to Robert, who, being blind, has never seen one. But he realises that he cannot find the words to offer a good description. Robert proposes that the narrator get a sheet of paper and a pencil and that he tries to draw a cathedral. The narrator agrees to this, and as he is drawing, his wife returns downstairs and asks that they are doing.

Robert tells the narrator to close his eyes as he finishes his drawing, and then to open them and tell him what he sees. But the narrator suddenly feels different and doesn’t open his eyes. When Robert asks him if he is looking, the narrator keeps his eyes closed, but replies, ‘It’s really something.’

‘Cathedral’ : analysis

Raymond Carver’s work is often associated with the term minimalism, a literary technique marked by a simple descriptive style (often utilising short, clipped sentences) and spare dialogue. Carver himself expressed a dislike for this term, but we can certainly see a line between someone like Ernest Hemingway and Carver’s own short stories. And ‘Cathedral’ is as notable for what it doesn’t tell us as for what it does, and the narrator’s account of his evening spent with Robert and his wife invites us to ponder further questions.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the ending to the story, which is where most critics and students of ‘Cathedral’ focus the majority of their analysis (and speculation). While watching the programme on cathedrals and talking to Robert, who cannot see the images on the screen, the narrator comes to realise how little he has observed of the world around him. His moment of deepest insight comes at the end of the story when he closes his eyes while finishing the drawing of a cathedral.

Obviously this drawing cannot be for Robert’s benefit, as he cannot see it. Instead, inspires the narrator to realise how little he really sees of the world he lives in. Ironically, it is only by closing his eyes and ‘seeing’ as Robert does that he can realise this: it is only by closing his eyes, in other words, can he truly ‘see’.

The final words of the story, ‘It’s really something’, are neatly double-edged: on the face of it, the narrator is lying to Robert and pretending to be looking at the picture he has drawn, but of course the words carry another meaning. There is a suggestion that the narrator, having bonded with Robert and then closed his eyes, has had some sort of epiphany : a realisation or sudden coming-to-consciousness, whereby he comes to recognise something new about himself and the world.

In this case, then, what he has recognised is what it must be like for Robert. Or at least, that is one way to analyse and interpret the end of Carver’s story. But although epiphanies in fiction often involve characters reaching beyond themselves and discovering a new sense of connection and empathy with others, sometimes they are more complex and ambiguous than this.

In James Joyce’s fiction, for example, characters’ epiphanies are often more undecidably poised between generosity and self-absorption; between realising one’s connectedness to the rest of the world, and merely self-dramatising this realisation. In ‘Cathedral’, too, we may question precisely what the narrator has become aware of at the end of the story. Has he realised that he should appreciate things more, including his gift of sight? Has he realised he should be kinder to Robert and respect his wife’s friendship with this man?

There are obviously some interesting parallels between the two men. Robert had a wife he was close to but he lost her; the narrator has a wife, but in many ways he is more lonely than Robert, despite this. Both men like whiskey and, it turns out, smoking weed. They obviously have the narrator’s wife in common as the most important woman – now Robert’s wife has died – in each of their lives.

We might also question the cause of this change in the narrator. It’s possible that it’s through talking to Robert and realising how his blindness has shut out so many experiences from him that the narrator gains an awareness of how lucky he himself is to have sight, and how far he has fallen short of using the sense he is lucky to have. What point is there having sight when you are happy to go through life without ever noticing or appreciating the beauty and majesty of a medieval cathedral?

Alternatively, and perhaps more probably, it is not just Robert’s blindness – and the narrator’s realisation of how little he himself has appreciated his gift of sight – that causes this shift in the narrator at the end of the story. The narrator tells us that he does not enjoy his job. His wife reveals that he doesn’t have any friends. He is, in short, quite a lonely figure who spends his nights sitting by himself watching television and smoking weed.

It is also clear that, his own initial mockery of Robert’s disability notwithstanding, his wife is not especially sensitive to his insecurities regarding her close and longstanding friendship with Robert. It seems likely, then, that Robert is the first person in the narrator’s life, at least for a long while, who actually takes an interest in him and treats him kindly and encouragingly. The act of drawing the cathedral at the end of the story is the pinnacle of this.

In summary, then, all that is clear from Raymond Carver’s story is that the narrator undergoes some kind of change at the end. But how generous and outward-facing, as it were, and how introspective and self-motivated, this change is, remains to be decided. Carver deliberately leaves it open to us to decide.

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“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver: An Analysis

“Cathedral,” a short story collection by Raymond Carver originally published in 1981, masterfully explores the lives of ordinary people yearning for meaning and connection.

"Cathedral" by Raymond Carver

Introduction: “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver

Table of Contents

“Cathedral,” a short story collection by Raymond Carver originally published in 1981, explores the lives of ordinary people yearning for meaning and connection in life. One of Carver’s most celebrated and widely studied story,i resonates deeply due to its writing style and exploration of isolation, prejudice, and empathy. Carver’s signature minimalism and sharp detail illuminate the inner worlds of his characters, leaving readers with a lingering sense of hope in life’s everyday struggles .

Main Events in “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver

Prejudice and the arrival.

  • Apprehension & Arrival: The narrator fixates on preconceptions about blindness, setting a tone of discomfort as he awaits the arrival of Robert, his wife’s blind friend.

An Uneasy Evening

  • Awkward Hospitality: Dinner conversation remains superficial; the narrator focuses on surface observations rather than connecting with Robert.
  • Intimate Connection: The narrator witnesses a deeper, more natural communication between his wife and Robert, unsettling his sense of security in his own relationship.

Late-Night Revelations

  • Breaking the Ice: With his wife asleep, alcohol loosens the narrator’s inhibitions, and he engages Robert in a discussion about the experience of blindness.
  • The Cathedral Question: Robert’s surprising request for a verbal description of a cathedral challenges the narrator’s understanding of both sight and communication.

Shifting Perspectives

  • Beyond Words: The narrator grapples with the inadequacy of language to convey the visual essence of a cathedral, revealing his own limitations as well as Robert’s.
  • Tactile Collaboration: Robert suggests a unique solution: drawing a cathedral together, guiding the narrator’s hand over his, offering a sensory bridge between their experiences.
  • A Moment of Change: This shared act breaks down the narrator’s prejudices, opening him to a genuine connection with Robert.

Transformation and Connection

  • Witness and Epiphany : The narrator’s wife awakens to observe the men’s unusual activity, drawn into the experience.
  • Transcending Barriers: The narrator finds a newfound empathy, symbolized by his refusal to let go of Robert’s hand even when his wife joins them.
  • The Power of Empathy: The story ends on a note of transformation, underscoring the potential for understanding and connection that exists beyond perceived differences.

Literary Devices in “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver

Characterization in “cathedral” by raymond carver, protagonist.

  • The Narrator : The central character and the voice through which the story is told. Initially, he embodies discomfort and harbors preconceptions about blindness, which serve as driving forces for the narrative. As the story progresses, he undergoes a transformation, leading to greater understanding and connection.

Primary Supporting Character

  • Robert : The blind friend of the narrator’s wife. Robert’s openness and unique perspective act as catalysts for the narrator’s transformation. Through his interactions with the narrator, he challenges preconceived notions and fosters empathy and understanding.

Secondary Supporting Characters

  • The Narrator’s Wife : Serving as a bridge between the narrator and Robert, she demonstrates a more empathetic and understanding viewpoint towards Robert’s disability. Her presence highlights the evolving dynamics between the characters.
  • Beulah : Robert’s deceased wife. Though physically absent, her memory serves to underscore Robert’s character and experiences, adding depth to his interactions with the other characters.
  • The Narrator’s Wife’s Ex-Husband : A minor character briefly referenced, providing additional context for the narrator’s wife’s past and contributing to the narrative’s background.

Major Themes in “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver

Writing st yle in “cathedral” by raymond carver.

  • Minimalism : Carver’s signature style employs short, simple sentences and understated prose. This creates a sense of emotional distance, reflecting the narrator’s internal state.
  • Implied Meaning: The reader is actively engaged in filling the gaps left by the spare style. This encourages deeper analysis of themes like perception, isolation, and fear.
  • Tension and Engagement: The lack of overt explanation generates a sense of tension and uncertainty, drawing the reader deeper into the story.
  • Emotional Resonance: Despite the minimalism, Carver’s writing evokes powerful emotions, culminating in the story’s impactful and satisfying ending.

Literary Theories and Interpretation of “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver

Questions and thesis statements about “cathedral” by raymond carver, thematic analysis of “cathedral”.

1. Isolation vs. Connection

  • Thesis Statement: Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” examines the complexities of isolation and connection, showcasing how two seemingly disparate individuals find common ground and forge a profound bond that challenges their initial separateness.

2. Critique of Toxic Masculinity

  • Thesis Statement: “Cathedral” offers a subtle critique of toxic masculinity, revealing how the narrator’s insecurities and resistance to vulnerability obstruct his ability to connect meaningfully with others.

3. Reader-Response Theory

  • Thesis Statement: Reader-response theory illuminates how individual experiences and perspectives significantly shape the interpretation of “Cathedral.”

4. The Role of Symbolism

  • Thesis Statement: Symbolism enriches “Cathedral,” with elements like the cathedral itself representing the human desire for connection and transcendence, emphasizing deeper thematic layers.

5. Postmodernist Perspective

  • Thesis Statement: “Cathedral” aligns with postmodernist notions of fragmented reality, demonstrating how the narrator’s biased worldview illustrates the subjective and constructed nature of our understanding.

Short Question-Answer “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver

  • Who is the narrator in “Cathedral” and what is his relationship with the blind man?

The narrator in “Cathedral,” a middle-aged man, is dismissive of Robert, his wife’s blind friend. His early descriptions focus on Robert’s physical blindness (“his beard had nicks… his eyes were the same color as his beard — a frosty blue”) rather than seeing him as a whole person. Their relationship drastically shifts, culminating in a moment of deep connection as they draw the cathedral together, their hands intermingling on the page.

  • What is the significance of the title “Cathedral”?

The title “Cathedral” directly references the act of drawing, where the narrator and Robert bridge their differences. This symbolizes a shared yearning for connection and transcendence. While the narrator has difficulty visualizing a cathedral initially, Robert’s verbal cues (“Try drawing it”) guide him towards discovering a new way of “seeing.”

  • How does “Cathedral” reflect the theme of perception and prejudice?

“Cathedral” exposes the narrator’s ingrained prejudices about blindness. He admits, “A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to.” This initial perception prevents him from appreciating Robert’s personality and experiences. His transformation begins by listening to Robert’s tapes, and later, when Robert guides his hand during the drawing, the narrator transcends his limited perspective, gaining a new understanding.

  • What is the significance of the ending of “Cathedral”?

The ending of “Cathedral” shows the narrator’s profound shift after the drawing experience. Initially skeptical of Robert’s ability to understand without sight, he undergoes his own epiphany. With his eyes closed, guided by Robert, he states, “It was like nothing else in my life up to now.” This ending underscores the power of overcoming barriers, forging genuine connections, and the possibility of seeing the world through a different lens.

Suggested Readings: “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver

Scholarly articles.

  • Burkman, Katherine H. “The Houses of ‘Cathedral.'” The Iowa Review vol. 19, no. 1, 1989, pp. 74-84. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40427232
  • Gentry, Marshall Bruce. “The Eye and I in Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral.'” Studies in Short Fiction vol. 31, no. 4, 1994, pp.769-776. Project Muse, [invalid URL removed].
  • Saltzman, Arthur M. “The Figure in the Carpet: Minimalism, Masculinity, and Mediation in Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral.'” Contemporary Literature vol. 33, no. 1, 1992, pp. 25-47. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1208626.

Essays and Online Resources

  • Nesset, Kirk. “Seeing and Believing: on Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral'” The Story and Its Writer, 9th ed., edited by Ann Charters, Bedford St. Martin’s, 2015, pp. 589-593.
  • The Poetry Foundation: “Raymond Carver” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/raymond-carver (Includes brief biography and links to further analysis).

Book Chapter

  • Stull, William L., and Maurie P. McInnis. “Cathedral.” Raymond Carver (Critical Insights), edited by William L. Stull and Maurie P. McInnis, Salem Press, 2009, pp. 252-271.

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literary analysis essay for cathedral

Home — Essay Samples — Geography & Travel — Cathedral — Cathedral by Raymond Carver: Analysis

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Cathedral by Raymond Carver: Analysis

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Published: Jun 9, 2021

Words: 1105 | Pages: 2 | 6 min read

Works Cited

  • Carver, R. (1983). Cathedral. In Cathedral: stories (pp. 3-22). Vintage Books.
  • Dowling, J. (2001). Raymond Carver and the grotesque. MFS Modern Fiction Studies, 47(3), 609-635.
  • Ford, R. (1999). The landscape of absence: Robert Stone, Raymond Carver, and the reinvention of masculinity. Contemporary Literature, 40(4), 614-648.
  • Gallagher, T. (2009). Conversations with Raymond Carver. University Press of Mississippi.
  • Lentricchia, F., & Zeitz, L. (Eds.). (1995). After the New Criticism. University of Chicago Press.
  • Lye, J. (1996). Some notes toward a definition of minimalism. Style, 30(2), 210-226.
  • O'Connor, F. (1992). A good man is hard to find and other stories. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  • Pugh, A. J. (2001). Sound and symbol in Raymond Carver's 'Cathedral'. Style, 35(4), 637-655.
  • Runyon, R. (1990). The compulsive storyteller: Raymond Carver, audiocassette, and the hygiene of reading. The Georgia Review, 44(3), 670-681.
  • 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

Unveiling the transformative power of connection | A masterclass in literary revelation

Title: Cathedral

Author: Raymond Carver

Genre:  Short Story

First Publication: 1983

Language:  English

Summary: Cathedral by Raymond Carver

It was morning in America when Raymond Carver’s Cathedral came out in 1983, but the characters in this dry collection of short stories from the forgotten corners of the land of opportunity didn’t receive much sunlight. Nothing much happens to the subjects of Carver’s fiction, which is precisely why they are so harrowing: nothingness is a daunting presence to overcome. And rarely do they prevail, but the loneliness and quiet struggle the characters endure provide fertile ground for literary triumph, particularly in the hands of Carver, who was perhaps in his best form with this effort.

Review: Cathedral by Raymond Carver

“Cathedral” is a widely anthologized short story written by Raymond Carver first published in 1983. The story centers around an unnamed narrator, his wife, and a blind friend of hers named Robert. The narrator is prejudiced against blind people and uncomfortable with Robert’s visit, but over the course of the evening, his attitudes and perspectives change as he connects with Robert in an unexpected way.

The story opens with the narrator telling us that a blind friend of his wife’s, named Robert, is coming to visit them. The narrator makes it clear from the opening paragraph that he is not looking forward to this visit, saying bluntly, “ I wasn’t enthusiastic about his visit. He was no one I knew. And his being blind bothered me. ” This establishes the narrator as being prejudiced against blind people and not open to this experience or getting to know Robert.

The narrator then gives some background on his wife and how she met Robert. We learn his wife worked briefly for Robert years ago, reading reports and books onto tape. This was ten years earlier, and the narrator never met Robert, but his wife has maintained contact with him primarily through audiotapes they exchange. The narrator again emphasizes Robert’s blindness and his discomfort with it, saying he does not know many blind people and asking, “ What could a blind man ask of me? ” This continues to build his character as narrow-minded about people different from himself.

As the narrator tells the story of how his wife met Robert, he reveals that his wife had marital troubles in the past. We learn she was married once before but divorced her husband after she discovered he was cheating on her. This brief detail shows the narrator is her second husband and suggests trust issues she may have struggled with in relationships. The narrator seems unaware of what significance this past betrayal may still hold for her, as he brings it up casually.

The evening of Robert’s visit arrives. The narrator describes watching his wife prepare various foods, anticipating how Robert will manage eating dinner without being able to see the food. This continues to show the narrator’s preoccupation with Robert’s blindness. When Robert arrives, the narrator carefully notes his dark glasses and walking stick, fixated on these symbols of his blindness. His descriptions suggest Robert looks capable and confident in navigating the world despite his blindness.

Over dinner, the narrator begins telling the story of how his wife and Robert first met through her past job. His wife interrupts, perhaps annoyed that her husband is telling Robert about his own life or concerned that he’s focusing too much on her ex-husband’s hurtful actions. This small moment shows potential friction in how the narrator and his wife relate to each other. As the evening goes on, she seems interested in connecting with Robert, while the narrator continues to keep a distance.

After dinner, the three move into the living room, where the narrator and Robert share a couple of drinks together as the narrator’s wife falls asleep watching TV. As the narrator continues describing interactions with Robert, he moves from blunt statements about his blindness to more nuanced observations about Robert managing life without sight, perhaps reflecting his growing understanding. The narrator feels Robert looking closely at him, even without sight, and senses an insightfulness that makes him self-conscious.

Robert asks to see, or experience, the narrator’s face with his hands. This request takes the narrator by surprise and makes him uncomfortable. However, he agrees. As Robert moves his hands over the narrator’s face and hairline, the narrator has a powerful moment of connection with someone quite different from himself. The sensory description slows down as, for a moment, the narrator tries to imagine what it might be like to navigate life without sight. He observes acute details, like how long Robert’s fingers are. No longer preoccupied by judgments about Robert’s blindness, the narrator begins to observe Robert more openly.

In this intense moment between two very different men, the TV show switches on just then to a late-night documentary about cathedrals in Europe. Both men are absorbed by the soaring architecture and shadowy mystery of the cathedrals. When Robert asks him to describe what he sees on TV, this opens up a surprising opportunity for a connection between them.

As the narrator tries to describe the cathedral images for Robert, he follows Robert’s guidance to describe the visual details more thoroughly. We sense the narrator being drawn into a fuller way of seeing and describing his world as he connects with Robert’s way of experiencing that world. Robert also shares his limited understanding of cathedrals based on what he thinks they are like through touch, showing the narrator how he builds an understanding of things like cathedrals from gathering many small sensory details about them over time.

This opens the narrator’s mind as he tries to bridge their differences in perspective to really communicate with Robert about what he sees. As the story concludes, the narrator is still trying to find the words to capture the soaring majesty of the shadowy cathedrals and convey their awe-inspiring beauty to his new friend Robert. Their connection through their different experiences of cathedrals transcends the blindness that separated them earlier.

Throughout the story, we see the narrator transform from someone closed-off, judgmental, and self-absorbed into someone willing to connect beyond surface differences. While earlier he was preoccupied by how blind people get around, by the end he enters Robert’s world, trying to translate visual beauty into tactile experience. This unexpected connection challenges all the narrator’s prejudices, showing how we can find common ground with people very different from ourselves.

Some key themes emerge in this deceptively simple story about a blind man’s visit for dinner. On the surface, the story critiques superficial biases like the narrator’s initial prejudice against the blind. But at a deeper level, this story explores broader themes like isolation versus connection in modern life, the limits of communication between very different people, and finding meaning across life’s divides through empathy.

Carver was known for his spare writing style, which relies on everyday details and understated emotion to drive home deeper truths. Raymond Carver does this masterfully in “Cathedral,” using an ordinary dinner invitation to reveal the transformation that becomes possible when we open ourselves to understand someone quite different from us. The story’s emotional power comes from this revelatory bridging of differences where two isolated individuals find a surprising connection.

The spare realism of Carver’s straightforward prose style is on full display here. He uses no overt symbolism. Cathedral works through the accumulation of precise, resonating detail—the brandy and ginger ale over ice, the narrator’s hand-drawing demonstration of cathedrals, the cathedral documentary’s discussion of naves and flying buttresses.Out of specific, familiar things, Carver builds a quiet profundity.

Within this realist style, narrative perspective is key. Telling the story strictly through the narrator focuses all events and details through his limited first-person consciousness. This frames the narrator’s transformation over the course of the evening as the central storyline, rather than a message about blindness itself. Through the narrator’s evolving perceptions, innumerable small details take on cumulative thematic significance in terms of communication, connection, and overcoming prejudice across divides.

For example, early on, the narrator expresses discomfort with Robert’s blindness, saying he prefers silence to the sound of the rolling skateboard Robert uses. Later, though, while watching the cathedral documentary, he is absorbed by the deep silence within the soaring cathedrals, paying closer attention to Robert’s experience. Contrasts like this subtly underscore the narrator’s shift in consciousness even before the climax, where he lets Robert trace his face with his hands.

The story also hinges structurally on three primary sections: the introductory buildup focusing entirely on the narrator and his prejudice, the middle transitional section where he observes Robert over dinner, and then the intimate denouement with the “seeing” his face moment and the cathedral documentary climax. This simple, rising action helps pivot point by point from distance to understanding.

The title “Cathedral” holds several layers of meaning. On one level, cathedrals symbolize the sublime, ineffable beauty in the world that the narrator struggles to convey to a blind man. But cathedrals also took on a broader cultural meaning in the 1980s as the AIDS crisis confronted society with death, stigma, and suffering—not unlike blindness. The story can be read more politically as bridging divides in understanding around homosexuality and illness. Ultimately, “Cathedral” suggests connections possible across many kinds of unfamiliar experiences.

Within its spare realism and precise detail, this widely resonant story tackles isolation, communication gaps, biases, and the struggle to move beyond superficial differences towards connection. The narrator’s small but extraordinary moment of intimacy and insight with a blind man opens subtly outward into larger questions of meaning, empathy, and the sublime that arise amidst the ordinary. Carver leaves these layers of significance implicit within the simple situation of an awkward dinner invitation, trusting readers to connect the larger threads. The result is a quiet masterpiece of revelation trimmed down to the lean essentials.

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Cathedral by Raymond Carver: Summary, Analysis and Review

Cathedral is a short story written by Raymond Carver. This story was included in the ‘Best American Short Stories’ (1982). It’s the story of how a man’s perspective about blind people changes dramatically when he meets an extraordinary blind man who introduces him to a new realm of experience.

“Cathedral”

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you read this word?

My guess is that you made a mental image of a cathedral, right?

Now here’s a question: how long do you think it’s going to take you to explain your mental image of a cathedral to me so that I see it exactly the same way you do?

5 minutes? 15 minutes? An hour?

And how satisfied are you once you’re done explaining it?

Cathedral, a short story by Raymond Carver, is an immense realization of this. to say the least.

Cathedral Short Story: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story opens with the narrator mentioning a visit from a friend of his wife, one whom he does not seem to particularly like, considering that he is blind.

This friend’s wife has recently died and after returning from one of his relatives’ place, he considers meeting the narrator’s wife, as they live close-by.

The narrator knows quite a lot about this friend – he was a reader. The narrator’s wife met and was employed by this man years ago. On the last day of her job, this blind friend had touched his wife’s face and wrote a poem about it.

Knowing all this, the narrator finds this man’s blindness ‘unsettling’, more than anything else.

The narrator also goes on to give the us (i.e. the readers) a peek into his wife’s past-marriage to a childhood sweetheart, loneliness that had led to a suicide attempt (which she survived) followed by a failed marriage.

Through all these experiences, she continued to keep in touch with her friend. Poems and tapes were the primary means of communication between them. They talked about everything and everyone, including the narrator.

The narrator and his wife have a discussion about the impending visit from her friend, wherein his wife continues urging him to be nice to her friend, while the narrator continues to bring up reservations about the guest being blind.

She tells him about that man’s wife, their married life and her struggle with a terminal disease. All this while, the narrator, seemingly immune to the grief of the blind man, continues to wonder about the unhappiness his wife would have felt thinking he could never see her.

The narrator’s wife goes to pick her friend from the train station, while the husband waits for them at home.

cathedral by raymond carver book cover

He is shocked to see that Robert (the blind man) sports a beard. This does not seem natural to the narrator. His wife introduces him to Robert and all of them engage in conversation.

The narrator inadvertently asks Robert which side of train did he sit on his way here. He quickly realizes his mistake, but seeing that Robert is unnerved by the question, he’s a bit surprised.

Three of them sit for dinner and stuff their faces. Many things about Robert continue to surprise the narrator, including, Robert not wearing dark glasses, his ability to smoke ‘normally’ and eat and drink effortlessly.

All this starts to challenge the blindness stereotype that he had held in his mind for so long.

While his wife excuses herself for a change of clothes and is gone for quite a while, both men engage in small talk and narrator switches his attention to the television which aired a program about Middle Ages, showing cathedrals from different parts of the world.

This prompts the narrator to ask Robert if he had any idea what a cathedral looked like. Robert requests the narrator to describe one to him but finds him struggling while doing so.

Robert then asks the narrator to bring a pen and paper and draw a cathedral. He puts his hand over the narrator’s hand, following the movement of the narrator’s hand. The narrator continues to draw and finds himself immersed in the experience, in a way that he had never felt before.

At one point, upon Robert’s insistence, he starts drawing with his eyes closed. When he’s  done, Robert asks him to open his eyes.

The narrator chooses not to, soaking in his newfound bliss. When he’s asked how it felt, he simply responds with “it really is something”.

Cathedral : Review and My thoughts

The story seems simple, doesn’t it?

But it has a little Thich Nhat Hanh lesson (he’s a famous monk and peace activist who has published over 100 books) for us there – a lesson of mindfulness.

Not only that, it takes a jab at how easy it is for humans to fall prey to stereotypes.

The story sure is short, but has much to offer. The narrator’s reservations about blind people, his completely warped view of the world of disabled is, on some occasions, comical, while at others bordering on apathy.

Some quotes from Cathedral

One of the narrator’s blanket statements about blind people is downright comical.

“I remembered having read somewhere that the blind didn’t smoke, because, as speculation had it, they couldn’t see the smoke they exhaled.”

I couldn’t help but laugh when, on seeing his wife’s thigh exposed, the narrator rushed to cover it, only to put it back when he realized that the only other person in the room was blind.

Here, read for yourself to see if it has the same effect (holding breath in anticipation of your validatory smile):

“(While sleeping) she had turned so that her robe had slipped away from her legs, exposing a juicy thigh. I reached to draw her robe back over her, and it was then that I glanced at a blind man. What the hell! I flipped the robe open again.”

His reminiscence about his wife’s tragic past is sad, but with a slight undertone of jealousy. That man who seemed like a stone, did expose his soft side. I couldn’t help but gush a little when I read this.

“Her officer – why should he have a name? He was her childhood sweetheart, what more does he want?”

And yes, why should a spouse’s ex have a name?

Robert’s positivity and an upbeat temperament is in stark contrast with the narrator’s expectations.

Robert seems to have it all – loving and meaningful relationships, complete immersion in what he does and an undying penchant for learning.

“I am always learning something. Learning never ends. It won’t hurt me to learn something tonight. I got ears.”

Couldn’t get any more cliche than that, eh? Yet valuable just the same.

Learning. Never. Ends.

We have great people from history and the present worldwide vouching for Robert on this one, and for good reason.

It’s ironical that a seemingly indifferent narrator has a profound experience at the hands of someone that he was completely apathetic to, until they share an immersive experience.

Very cleverly, Carver exposed the error of the narrator’s way by showing him that the world he thought he was lacking was actually the one capable of making him feel fulfilled.

A world that showed him better things. A world that makes him see.

I hope I see more from this day on.

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“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver Essay

Introduction, the epiphany through touch.

The short story “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver focuses on one evening in a protagonist’s life that is likely to change him forever. The narrator and his wife play host to a blind man named Robert, an old friend of the woman. Although the story’s hero is initially uncomfortable with the guest being in his house, their interaction slowly shows him the new side of himself. By the end of the story, Bub begins to imagine what the world must be like for Robert, and, in doing so, he finds hope that he can confront his isolation and connect with people.

The protagonist, known only as “Bub,” is shown as a reserved and uncommunicative person from the beginning of the story. Bub does not feel like having a blind person in his house because he does not know Robert, and his blindness bothers him as he never met anyone who is blind before (Carver 1). His knowledge of visually impaired individuals and what life is like for them is superficial and is based on something the narrator once read in the paper and saw on TV (Carver 6). He is genuinely surprised to discover that what he knows does not relate to Robert in any way. The narrator focuses intensively on describing Robert’s appearance and barely interacts with him in the first half of the story. He only joins the conversation to let Robert know that he is still in the room and not upset his wife (Carver 6). This fixation on Robert’s looks and surface participation in the talk shows the protagonist’s detachment from everyone in his life. Bub sees the people but does not know how to form connections with them.

The narrator’s lack of meaningful relationships is emphasized by Robert, who seems to form them with ease. He has been exchanging tapes with Bub’s wife for more than ten years and has friends worldwide (Carver 7). Robert’s affliction does not stop him from getting to know people, and he does not allow it to isolate him from anyone. In contrast, Bub voluntarily separates himself from people, closing himself off from everyone he knows. Nevertheless, the narrator’s perspective changes when he draws a cathedral with Robert. As Bub closes his eyes, he lets go of his constant self-consciousness and superficial judgments. Sharing the moment with Robert shows him that to understand someone, one needs to get deeper than looks and appearances and that forming connections is not so difficult. The moment feels right to Bub, and he even wants to keep his eyes closed longer, stating, “I thought it was something I ought to do” (Carver 13). It can be argued that this is the first time the speaker does not feel secluded and alone, and it gives him hope that he can connect with other people in the future.

“Cathedral” shows the narrator’s transformation from an extremely reserved person who does not know how to form meaningful connections in his life to someone who is aware that he is capable of it. By letting himself envision Robert’s world, the narrator relinquishes the restrictions he puts on himself and enjoys being in the moment. Overall, the connection the protagonist forms with Robert gives him hope and strength to face his isolation and form more meaningful relationships.

Carver, Raymond. Cathedral . Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 1983.

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IvyPanda. (2022, February 25). “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cathedral-by-raymond-carver/

"“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver." IvyPanda , 25 Feb. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/cathedral-by-raymond-carver/.

IvyPanda . (2022) '“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver'. 25 February.

IvyPanda . 2022. "“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver." February 25, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cathedral-by-raymond-carver/.

1. IvyPanda . "“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver." February 25, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cathedral-by-raymond-carver/.

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IvyPanda . "“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver." February 25, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cathedral-by-raymond-carver/.

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Literary Analysis of Cathedral by Raymon

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In this draft of a chapter in my book Intermediality and Narrative Literature. Medialities Matter, I apply my heteromedial three-step model on Raymond Carver's well-known short story "Cathedral".

Alejandro Lopez Hernandez

Dirty Realism is a literary movement which arose in the USA during the 70’s and 80’s. It aims at showing some of the worst aspects of Western society during the postmodern era. Dirty Realism reaches readers mainly through the novel and short story. Its characters are not heroes, they are regular people who struggle with current life, its problems and challenges. It is not clear where Dirty Realism comes from, but it seems to be closer to American Naturalism. Dirty Realism has as one of its goals to critique the postmodern society, nevertheless, it does not offer any political critique. Charles Bukowski is one of the writers whose work we will analyze. He tells his own life in the novels, he wrote and talked about his current problems by using an alter ego. Raymond Carver is the other writer we will approach. He wrote short stories, we can find in there characters who deal with their current problems but they do not know how to fix them. Both writers want to criticise the society where they lived. However, they do not offer any solution. Carver and Bukowski belonged to the same movement, but also present some differences as we should be able to prove at the end of this project.

Carver in the Age of Trump a valuable opportunity to consider the perspective of that demographic in detail. Carver's work reminds readers that these are often " decent men " who have been dealt bad hands " in a plentiful world " and therefore " behave badly " (Weber 37): Doreen Ober's willingness to play along with Earl's diet scheme in " They're Not Your Husband, " for example, suggests her understanding that Earl is a victim of uncontrollable circumstances. But if Carver's work can foster sympathy across the political divide in the Age of Trump, it also offers a critique of these men's behavior. Carver repeatedly shows how the same social and economic anxieties that energize Trump supporters prompt toxic assertions of masculine privilege in the men of Carver country, rather than productive coping strategies. Examining the ways in which " What Is It? " " A Serious Talk, " and other stories illustrate this dynamic, this presentation will suggest that the same ideal of self-reliant manhood that Trump aims to project provokes in Carver's men symbolic displays of power and authority that are as harmful as they are ineffectual.

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

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Yi-ting Tsai

—Generally speaking, the narratives are divided into two categories; those written by men writers and those written by women writers. In other words, some narratives are narrated by a male narrator who employs distancing strategies and some are narrated by a female narrator using engaging strategies, which are respectively employed by men and women writers. This is what Warhol, the feminist narratologist, proposes while she bases her ideas on Genette's narratological theories concerning the narrators and a 'distance' they create between the readers and the story which is told in the narrative. Carver's "Cathedral" is an exception. "Cathedral" significantly represents a narrator whose gender changes throughout the narrative. Though, the whole narrative is recounted by a first person narrator, by a man, his gender changes from a male to a female narrator. Investigating Carver's aim of using this method, this paper probes the male and female interventions in the narrative.

Katarina Polonsky

Abstract This dissertation explores the connections between the literary representations of rape, blue-collar white men, and masculinity, in the 1980s works of Raymond Carver, Andre Dubus, and Denis Johnson. It suggests that these stories constitute rape narratives, and argues that they critique their era’s dominant model of American masculinity that President Ronald Reagan embodied. It contends that these rape narratives engage with the various tenets of Reaganite masculinity, from the patriarchal household model in the domestic space, the homosocial contender of the all-male public space, to the self-determining cowboy of the wilderness frontier, to reveal these gender constructs as flawed myths. Rather than helping male characters adjust to the 1980s changes, Reaganite masculinity emerges as a limited construct that leads them astray, rendering them as lost white men. This dissertation’s departure point is the 1980s feminist and poststructuralist contention that gender is a historically-contingent construction. With this in mind, it contextualises these stories’ representations of masculinity in their respective era of the 1980s. This was an era marked by a shifting context of socio-cultural changes that destabilised white American masculinity’s hegemonic power and rendered the gender construct problematic for blue-collar white American men. As a result, this discussion contributes to the broader dialogue in masculinity studies on white American manhood during this changing era as marked by anger. Though scholarship reads this anger as the overwhelming trajectory of blue-collar manhood in late-twentieth-century American literature, this study suggests, that these stories, transcend representations of anger. By properly contextualising these stories, and examining the rape narrative’s significance, it suggests that the male characters are marked by loss. With this in mind, I argue these stories critique the era’s dominant model of manhood that President Ronald Reagan championed through their respective male characters. These stories, representing blue-collar men, critique that Reaganite model as insufficient for the 1980s shifting context. Rather than enfranchising the blue-collar characters, it undermines their ability to navigate their socio-cultural landscape. This dissertation deploys Hannah Arendt’s contention that violence is an ineffective tool for power and liberation, and argues that it demonstrates how Reaganite masculinity’s recourse to behaviours that propagate violence become problematic for the male characters. These rape narratives interrogate the validity of the masculinity that engenders this violence by rendering its behaviours as rigid and ideologically limited. To demonstrate this, this study examines Reaganite masculinity across three pertinent landscapes. Section One discusses the domestic space, suggesting that the Reaganite model’s muscular dominance impairs the male characters and displaces them from their reality. Section Two considers the all-male public bar, and shows how constructing masculinity through homosocial enactment offers a limited double-bind that engenders consequences that leave them lost. Section Three suggests that the Reaganite myth of the self-determining cowboy leads the men similarly astray as the paragon proves incompatible with their modern 1980s landscape. From the home, to the bar, to the wilderness frontier, the male characters of these stories emerge as less the angry white men that late twentieth-century American literature suggests, than lost white men.

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This article explores several elements of Raymond Carver’s oeuvre and its various applications to ESL and remedial English literature, comprehension, and composition classes. Due to the difficulty inherent in teaching ESL students literature featuring advanced verbiage and complex grammatical structure, a modern, minimalist writer like Carver and his condensed, easy-to-read short stories is a natural choice for an instructor of literature. Advanced instruction of dialogue and meaning, themes and symbols, and even the process of editing writing in order to improve meaning and reduce “clutter” can be instructed using Raymond Carver’s Collected Stories. Moreover, this article gives instructors certain teaching methods to aid the ESL student on his journey from a superficial understanding of grammar to a deeper understanding of meaningful, literary English. KEYWORDS: Raymond Carver, ESL, American literature, instruction

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Summary and Study Guide

Cathedral is a short story collection published in 1983 by the American author Raymond Carver. Its twelve stories center around themes of loneliness, broken relationships, and working-class dissatisfaction . His fourth published volume of short stories, Cathedral won Carver the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He also earned an O. Henry Award for the collection’s fifth short story, “A Small, Good Thing.”

Although Carver did not subscribe to a particular literary movement, scholars generally consider the author a minimalist. His early work bears the heavy influence of Esquire editor Gordon Lish, who constantly challenged Carver to use fewer words. While Carver considered Cathedral a stylistic break from Lish’s influence, the prose in the collection is still spare and economical, as the author employs very little description or figurative language . Carver is also associated with the “dirty realism” movement, a category which depicts the sordid mundanities of everyday life and unremarkable people. Other authors associated with this movement include Charles Bukowski, Cormac McCarthy, and Carson McCullers.

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Plot Summary

In the first story, “Feathers,” Jack and Fran, a blue-collar couple who dream of a better life they never expect to achieve visit the home of Jack’s coworker who recently had a baby. Although the visit is strange and the baby is ugly, it spurs Fran to encourage Jack to impregnate her that night. The couple never wanted children, and Jack feels trapped by his growing disconnection with his wife and a child he doesn’t particularly like.

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The second story, “Chef’s House,” concerns Edna, who leaves her new partner to stay with her recovering alcoholic ex-husband Wes in a home owned by Chef, another recovering alcoholic. When Chef asks the couple to move out because his daughter needs to live in the house, Wes breaks off the relationship with Edna because he doubts his ability to remain sober once they leave the isolation of the rented house.

In “Preservation,” Sandy’s husband loses his job is unable to venture far from the couch and living room. Upon discovering that the refrigerator is broken, Sandy insists that her husband accompany her to an appliance auction. At the end of the story, they both stare at unexplained puddles of water that accumulate before Sandy’s husband returns to the couch.

Myers boards a train in “The Compartment” to visit his estranged son who is a student in France. Anxious about the reunion and unimpressed with Europe, Myers impulsively decides that he won’t get off at his destination because he has no desire to reconcile with his son.

At the beginning of “A Small, Good Thing,” Ann orders a birthday cake for her son, Scotty. But on his birthday, a car strikes Scotty. During the three-day coma leading to their son’s death, Ann and her husband receive mysterious harassing phone calls from a baker who is angry that Ann never picked up her son’s cake. After Scotty dies, Ann confronts the baker. Horrified by his own behavior, the baker apologizes and comforts the bereaved parents with baked goods and kindness.

The narrator in “Vitamins” works a dead-end job and talks emotionlessly about his wife, Patti, who becomes a successful vitamin salesperson. When vitamin sales plummet, Patti is frustrated and the narrator has a brief, passionless tryst with Patti’s coworker.

“Careful” is about Lloyd, who lives in a small apartment after separating from his wife Inez. As Inez helps Lloyd deal with an uncomfortably blocked ear, she sees Lloyd’s alcoholism slip further out of control.

In “Where I’m Calling From,” the alcoholic narrator checks in for his second stay at a rehabilitation clinic. There, he befriends J.P., a man who wants to repair his life and his marriage. The narrator reflects on his own wife, who forced him to move out of their house, and his live-in girlfriend who is also an alcoholic. While the narrator’s attempts to call his wife go unanswered, J.P. reconciles with his own wife.

In “The Train” Miss Dent awaits a train after threatening a man at gunpoint, waiting for a train. An older couple enters and argues about the party they just left. They all board the train, and the author leaves their stories incomplete and unexplained.

In “Fever,” Carlyle is a teacher whose wife left him and their two children to run away with his colleague. Mrs. Wallace, an older woman hired to care for his children, transforms his home. One day, Carlyle grows very ill. As Mrs. Wallace cares for him, she tells him that she and her husband plan to move out-of-state. Left with his children, Carlyle develops a new sense of peace about his broken marriage.

“The Bridle” centers around Marge, who manages an apartment building with her husband. A family from Wisconsin moves in, having lost their farm when the husband, Holits, gambled away their savings on a racehorse. His wife, Betty, raises his two sons from a previous marriage while working as the family’s sole earner. One night, as Holits and his friends are drink by the pool, he sustains a head injury while performing a drunken stunt. Unable to support themselves, the family breaks their lease and moves away.

In the title story, “Cathedral,” the narrator is annoyed when his wife invites Robert, her blind friend, to stay with them. Uncomfortable around blindness and jealous of his wife’s friendship, the narrator nevertheless accepts Robert after a moment of mutual understanding. After watching a documentary about cathedrals, the narrator lets Robert feel his hands as he draws a cathedral to show him what they look like, thus changing the narrator’s perspective on blindness and his own life.

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Cathedral essay questions.

Discuss the theme of sight in "Cathedral." What does the narrator come to see? What does he learn about sight?

The narrator's epiphany at the end of "Cathedral" comes with his ability to 'see' outside of himself, to imagine himself as part of something bigger. The irony is that he is taught to 'see' by a blind man, and he 'sees' only through refusing to open his eyes and behold the drawing he has made. The narrator's attitudes about sight at the beginning of the story exhibit his close-mindedness: he judges Robert for blindness, even though he himself is 'blind' to the truth of what blindness is (he admits he only knows it through TV). What he learns about sight is that it can be limiting when turned only to the particulars of one's own life, instead of directed outwards to how we are all connected to something greater.

Why do you think Jack and Fran are so affected by their visit to Bud and Olla's in "Feathers"? Use specifics to explain your thoughts.

Jack and Fran are affected by experiencing the strangeness of Bud and Olla's life. Jack's narration paints their lives as comfortable but bland. They don't have friends and Fran knows little of Jack's life at work. They don't dine with others frequently, as seen in their difficulty deciding what to bring. The strange qualities of their hosts – in a house marked with an X on a map, they find plastered teeth, an ugly baby, and a peacock – shake them and make them change their minds about having a child. One could also describe their epiphany as inspired by the warmth of Bud and Olla's, the way they speak to one another and are accepting of their baby's ugliness, since it's just one stage before "another stage."

At the end of "A Small, Good Thing," Scotty's parents have a type of communion with the baker. What in the baker's confession do the parents relate to?

Ann and Howard, through Scotty's hospitalization, become closer to one another and more aware of how alone they truly are. Their general perspective throughout the tragedy is how far the rest of life is from their monumental pain – the doctors and nurses are essentially distanced, and images like cars in the parking lot have a disproportionate effect on Ann. The baker's confession about his long-standing loneliness is something they are able to empathize with, having realized the tragedy of how little their pain can be controlled or stopped.

What does Portland mean for the characters of "Vitamins"?

Portland becomes a symbol of escape from desperation in "Vitamins." After Sheila first tells the narrator she is going to Portland, he is taken with the image, suggesting the city as a means of escape to Donna even though he knows nothing about it. It illustrates how truly desperate the characters are; Portland is an arbitrary destination, as any change will do. The arbitrariness also illustrates how unhappy they are.

What does J.P.'s story teach the narrator of "Where I'm Calling From?"

J.P.'s story illustrates two points about the narrator's state of mind. The first is how much he wants diversion from his own life, and how little he wants to focus on himself. He asks J.P. to tell the story at such length partly because it's a distraction – he says he was interested in the story, but that he would have been interested in horseshoes. But it affects him anyway, as it is a story about action, in which J.P. goes after Roxy and wins the girl, before drink takes him over. The narrator asks Roxy for a kiss in hopes of also acquiring the agency to confront his own problems, which he begins to do by deciding to call his girlfriend.

Discuss how alcoholism affects the characters of any three stories in the collection.

Alcoholism is sometimes the cause, sometimes the symptom, and sometimes a symbol of a character's problem, depending on the story. In "Chef's House," it is a symbol of Wes's desire to be someone different. When he realizes that his vacation at Chef's will not make him someone else, Edna realizes his battle with drink is over, and that drink has won. In "Vitamins," it is a symptom of the characters' greater unhappiness with themselves. In "Careful," it seems to be the cause of Lloyd and Inez's separation. In "Where I'm Calling From," it is so involved it can be described as all three. In "Cathedral," it is a symptom of the narrator's blindness and separation from others.

Explain the symbol of the cathedral in "Cathedral."

The symbol of the cathedral helps to understand the epiphany. It is a symbol of a process that continues past the end of any individual's lifetime, as Robert observes. In the same way, self-discovery is something that must continue; as Robert says, he learns something new every day. Its spiritual quality is also important; while the story might not be overtly religious, it is about a transcendence that can be discussed in spiritual terms.

Explain the symbol of the bridle in "The Bridle."

A bridle is used to control a horse for maximum effect. Placed into a horse's mouth and controlled by the rider, it is an extreme way to force restraint on the part of a wild horse. And yet it produces results. The bridle then represents the thematic conflict between restraint and impetuousness. While Marge's restraint in taking control of her life only isolates and stifles her, so is impetuousness seen as the source of destruction, both in terms of Holits's gambling and his accident.

What does the wax in "Careful" symbolize?

Lloyd's ear buildup helps to illustrate his inability to take action and listen to others. His alcoholism has helped cause the end of his marriage, and yet he deludes himself about this fact, unwilling to realize that his alcoholism is keeping him from closeness with his wife as much as the wax keeps him from hearing her speak. He cannot hear Inez throughout the story; his problem is too deep-rooted. Even after the wax is removed, he finds himself ignoring her words and without any sense of what time it is. He will not experience the pleasure of release from his larger problems until he learns to 'hear' them, to look them straight in the face.

Explain the role Mrs. Webster plays in Carlyle's recovery in "The Fever."

Mrs. Webster personifies dependability for Carlyle. He is growing progressively more anxious about his difficulty finding a babysitter. But she offers him far more, in the same way that his problem is far broader that the immediate need to take care of the children. Carlyle is unable to truly get over Eileen because he is fixated on the past, and the impossibility of reconciling his memory of the good parts of his relationship with Eileen with the way the relationship ended. This manifests in a physical fever, and Mrs. Webster, both through her tenderness and her confession about her own vulnerability in the world (her age has required her to move), inspires Carlyle to confess and thereby find the courage to move on.

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Cathedral Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Cathedral is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

What is the nature of the world?

In context, the nature of the world would be defined as the way so many people look without seeing.... the detachment.

what we talk about when we talk about love

Love is not just a word. Love is more than you can describe in words. For all people, love has different means. To better describe this, you can buy custom papers for college on Paperial service and get the best answers to your questions. Love...

In a good story, a character doesn’t suddenly become a completely different sort of person. Find details early in the story that show the narrator’s more sensitive side and thus help to make his development credible and persuasive.

Which section of Cathedral does this question pertain to?

Study Guide for Cathedral

Cathedral study guide contains a biography of Raymond Carver, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About Cathedral
  • Cathedral Summary
  • Character List

Essays for Cathedral

Cathedral essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Cathedral by Raymond Carver.

  • Blind Freeing the Blind: Transcendence in "Cathedral"
  • Metaphors of Blindness in "Cathedral"
  • Epiphanies of ‘Ugly’ Mrs. Turpin and the ‘Blind’ Narrator
  • Sweet Poison: The Use of Intoxication in Carver's Short Stories
  • Raymond Carver's Cathedral of Irony

Lesson Plan for Cathedral

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to Cathedral
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Related Links
  • Cathedral Bibliography

Wikipedia Entries for Cathedral

  • Introduction

literary analysis essay for cathedral

Literary Theory and Criticism

Home › Drama Criticism › Analysis of Murder in the Cathedral

Analysis of Murder in the Cathedral

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on July 19, 2018 • ( 0 )

1868JosephMartinKronheimBecket

Murder in the Cathedral  is divided into two parts (both of which are in verse) with a sermon given by the character of Thomas Becket (in prose) between them. The play shows influences of Ancient Greek drama (with its inclusion of a Chorus) and of medieval morality plays in which personifications of vices appear as characters.

A performance of the play was shown on BBC television in 1936, the first year that television was broadcast in the United Kingdom. It was adapted as a black and white British film in 1951. An Italian opera based on the play,  Assassinio nella catedrale , with music by Ildebrando Pizzeti, was first performed in 1958.

The play opens on December 2, 1170. The Chorus of women of Canterbury gather at the Cathedral. They lament the difficult lives which they have to lead and have a premonition that something terrible will happen soon. They worry that Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, may soon return from his seven year exile in France, which would anger King Henry II. Three priests also comment that they miss their Archbishop but worry about what would happen if he were to return.

A herald announces that Thomas Becket has returned to England and is on his way to Canterbury. He regrets to say that Becket and the King have not been reconciled and he fears that violence will follow.

The priests and the Chorus talk about how they are certain to suffer when Becket returns. One of the priests tells the Chorus that they should pretend to be happy when Becket comes back to Canterbury. At that moment, Becket arrives unexpectedly. He tells the priest that he is wrong and that the women are right to worry, since nobody knows God’s plans.

Four Tempters appear, one after the other, to tempt Becket. The First Tempter says that Becket should return to the secular life of pleasure that he led as a young man. The Second Tempter tells Becket that he should become Chancellor of England again, saying that he can do more to help the poor in a political position than in a purely religious one. The Third Tempter suggests that Becket form a new government composed of the nation’s barons, allowing him to effectively rule England. Becket finds these temptations easy to resist because they are things which he has already experienced.

The Fourth Tempter’s proposition is quite different. He suggests that Becket should seek to become a martyr. In death, his cause would be recognized as just and his enemies would be condemned. His name would long outlast those of the men that killed him. Becket recognizes this as the worst temptation of all, that of “doing the right thing for the wrong reason”. He says that he will not try to become a martyr but will accept his fate, whatever it is.

Becket’s Sermon

On Christmas Day 1170, Becket delivers a sermon in Canterbury Cathedral. He says that Christians should both mourn and celebrate the death of Jesus. They should mourn the existence of the sinful world that made Jesus’ death necessary and celebrate being able to transcend that world as a result of that sacrifice. He says that, similarly, the sacrifices of true martyrs should be both mourned and celebrated. According to Becket, true martyrs submit completely to the will of God and find freedom in doing so.

Becket concludes the sermon by telling his congregation that he believes he may not live long enough to speak to them again.

The second part of the play opens in the Archbishop’s Hall on December 29, 1170. The priests comment that all the days since Christmas have been dedicated to various saints but that December 29 is just an ordinary day.

Four gruff knights arrive and demand to see Becket. When he arrives, they insult him and accuse him of treason. The priests protect Becket, in spite of the threats which the knights make towards them. Becket comforts the Chorus, telling them that although life will become more difficult for them after his murder, they will also find comfort in the fact that they witnessed his martyrdom.

The knights return. Becket refuses to escape. Although the Cathedral doors are initially locked and bolted, the priests agree to open the doors and let the knights come in. The knights demand that Becket lift the excommunications which he has placed on England’s nobles. Becket refuses and is killed. While he is being murdered, the Chorus comment on how much more difficult their lives will be.

After Becket’s murder, the four knights address the audience directly. The language that they use in their speeches is much more straightforward and much more similar to every day modern English than that used in the rest of the play. The First Knight acknowledges that he is not good at speaking and introduces the other three instead. The Second Knight says that they were only following King Henry’s orders when they killed Becket. The Third Knight says that Becket was a traitor and deserved to die. The Fourth Knight says that Becket wanted to become a martyr, consequently, his death was not murder but suicide.

The three priests express their concern about how the world will change after Becket’s death. The Chorus say that they will try to live up to the example which Becket set and ask him and God for mercy and forgiveness.

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Additional Features

One of the most unique features of ‘Murder in the Cathedral’ is that it is in verse. Eliot produced a verse drama in an era when such an attempt was highly uncommon.

The play makes use of the chorus just like the Greek dramas. The chorus plays a very significant part in the play by providing necessary links and information the audience. It also guides the emotions of the audience by changing the tone of its own voice as per the situation.

Eliot seems to be following the popular beliefs regarding Beckett’s story without introducing many emotions on his own. Even the debate about whether the King actually ordered Beckett’s assassination or not has been presented in the usual doubtful manner in the play.

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