Raymond Carver's Cathedral: Religious Undertones Revealed

Topics: Short story, Religion, Anton Chekhov Pages: 6 (1883 words) Published: June 7, 2010
Isabella Siniscalchi
ENG 2012
Professor Bentley-Baker
February 25, 2010
Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral”: Religious Undertones Revealed
Over 4,000 religions exist in the world today, yet the exact number is unknown. Religion from the root “ligare,” means, “to bind.” To bind into, meaning to connect what is broken. Every day people experience spiritual revelations, some in minute happenings, and others through compelling events. In Raymond Carver’s short story “Cathedral”, it is clear that the narrator experiences an epiphany. However, this epiphany was not just about the ignorant man attaining insight, but a divine realization. In Carver’s “Cathedral” the main character not only experiences an epiphany into keenness, he also awakens to a world of religious insight. There are several indicators that affirm this assertion. First, the title “Cathedral” and symbolism behind using a cathedral instead of any other place or object. The actions and dialogue throughout the story have religious undertones. Lastly, Carver’s previous and succeeding works provide a foundation for the belief that “Cathedral” has religious intendment.

The title “Cathedral” in itself predisposes the reader to have some kind of idea that the story will pertain to religion. Before even beginning to read the story, the reader has already entered into the world of religion, faith, and Holiness. A cathedral is a holy place where people gather to worship. This signifies unity, and having faith in something superior and larger than humanity. Carver could have used any other venue or object to serve as the item to be drawn by the characters in his story, and as the title. Besides the lucid use of the title, cathedrals are brought up during the story when the narrator and Robert are watching T.V. This sparks conversation and Robert asks the narrator if he is in any way religious. He responds, “I guess I don’t believe in it. In anything. Sometimes it’s hard. You know what I’m saying?” (Carver 29) The narrator’s answer to Roberts question proves how ignorant and unknowing he is. Writer Monroe Engel has noted, “In ‘Cathedral,’ starting with the title itself, the religious context is strategic and surely highly conscious, it's all a matter of ‘negative reference.’ Religious allusion suggests what is missing from the life depicted. It is not part of the present context of that life.” (Engel 165)

Monroe demonstrates that the narrator, whom does not have any religious beliefs, makes it known to the reader so that one can understand the realization that he has later on during the story. The narrator not only lacks the ability to express himself intelligently, but also lacks knowledge concerning transcendent matters. Carver deliberately included that conversation to foreshadow the marvel near the ending of the story. The opposing view would say that Carver was referring to a humanly awakening, and nothing more. Writer Mark Facknitz stated: “Grace, Carver says, is bestowed upon us by other mortals, and it comes suddenly, arising in circumstances as mundane as a visit to the barber shop ... [It is] Not Grace in the Christian sense at all, it is what grace becomes in a godless world--a deep and creative connection between humans that reveals to Carver's alienated and diminished creatures that there can be contact in a world they supposed was empty of sense or love ... in the cathedrals we draw together, we create large spaces for the spirit.” (Wriglesworth 470)

I completely disagree with this acquisition, of the research that I have done on Raymond Carver, I could not find this quote in which he supposedly said these fallible remarks. If Carver were referring to a humanly happening, then he would not have repeatedly used words that have religious meaning. Grace by definition is the unmerited favor and love of God. It is impossible for a writer to make such obvious...
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