Heard but Not Seen
In Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral”, one of the most unexpected forms of communication touched upon was the ham radio. The ham radio represents the idea of communication throughout the story. Even though this radio is touched upon only once and even then barely, it is more significant than the other forms of communication mentioned in the story. It connects one of the main characters to the rest of the world. One can find several references to communication throughout the story (cassette tapes between old friends, a drawing between two acquaintances of a cathedral, a husband and a wife exchanging verbal and non-verbal communication) thus we see that communication plays multiple roles throughout the story. Occasionally, communication seems to be a problem between at least two of the characters in the story, usually between the narrator and his wife or Robert and the narrator. Why is it that there is a problem with communication not only between the two characters that it was expected (new acquaintances) to be but also between the characters where it was not expected (a husband and wife)? Why does Carver use Robert, who seems to be the most alone in the story, as a conduit of sorts for communication between himself and the other characters in the story? Why does communication (or lack thereof) play such a big part between each of the characters in the story?
One possible explanation for this big part that communication plays is that it displays how one character can serve as a metaphorical anchor for others in the story. This can be observed the most between Robert and the narrator’s wife. In the beginning of the story, we learn of the wife’s previous marriage and how her relocation and lack of communication with the ones she loves leads her to attempt suicide. After failing, Robert and the wife begin to exchange cassette tapes. This is done to keep them in touch with each other. In this...