Analysis of Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral”

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Analysis of Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral”

In the short story “Cathedral” Raymond Carver chooses to use the narrative voice to tell of a simple event that occurs all the time in normal daily life, which is the visit of a family member’s old friend. By using colloquial language and ordinary daily scenes, Carver easily gets our attention and enables us to engage with the story and even to create the images that match with the story. By telling the story from the narrator’s point of view, Carver attempts to reveal the narrator’s personality clearly and consistently. We learn the narrator’s personality not only from the words and language the narrator uses, but also through the limited thoughts and feelings he is able to express. However, using the narrative voice may also provide Carver with some difficulty in presenting a believable and consistent personality. This essay will show the most obvious inconsistency, which seems to be an out of place occurrence of depth and feeling from the otherwise simple and insensitive narrator. At the start of the story, the narrator expresses his negative attitude to the blind man’s visit. “I wasn’t enthusiastic about his visit. He was no one I know. And his being blind bothered me” (126). The honest and simple comment gives us an image that we are sitting next to the narrator and hearing the narrator complaining openly, like when a close friend is the most honest when others aren’t around. Carver’s narrative voice strategy allows us to see the narrator’s honest and mostly negative thoughts. This negative attitude towards to the blind man sets up tension in the story, while revealing the personality. First, it makes us notice that narrator is a selfish husband because it seems he doesn’t care what the visitor means to his wife but only about how the visitor’s blindness bothers him or makes him feel uncomfortable. Second, we see the narrator has no sympathy for those with disabilities. Finally, his lack of interest in the visitor also tells us the narrator might have difficulty in social life. These three ideas are all supported in one of the short conversations he has with his wife: “Maybe I could take him bowling,” the narrator said.

“If you love me, you can do this for me. … But if you had a friend, any friend, and the friend came to visit, I’d make him feel comfortable.” His wife replied. “I don’t have any blind friends,” the narrator said. “You don’t have any friends,” She said (127).

For example, by suggesting taking the blind man bowling shows us that the narrator is a thoughtless man. And from his wife’s words “You don’t have any friends,” (127) points out that the narrator has difficulty in making social connections. We see more evidence of the narrator’s limitations in how he chooses to interpret the background between his wife and the blind man: “She hadn’t seen him since she worked for him one summer in Seattle ten years ago. But she and the blind man had kept in touch. They made tapes and mailed them back and forth” (126). Here, the narrator briefly tells us that they had “kept in touch” but doesn’t bother to wonder why they’d been sending tapes for ten years. He then goes on to describe something that is obviously deeply meaningful to his wife, but using only the simple language merely reporting what his wife has said and without any personal interpretation of what had happened: “And she told me something else. On her last day in the office, the blind man asked if he could touch her face. She agreed to this. She told me he touched his fingers to every part of her face, her nose—even her neck! She never forgot it. She even tried to write a poem about it. She was always trying to write a poem. She wrote a poem or two every year, usually after something really important had happened to her” (126). The narrator doesn’t seem interested in wondering why this “touching” was so important to the wife. He doesn’t seem to care to understand anything other...
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