Cathedral by Raymond Carver – Summary

“Cathedral” is a 1983 short story written by Raymond Carver. Carver’s work is critically acclaimed worldwide and tend to deliver true-to-life characters with bleak outlooks on life and unreceptive emotional detachments to others.

“Cathedral” opens up with the narrator describing his wife’s past working relationship with a blind man many years before their marriage.  The blind man, named Robert, is currently en route to the narrator’s house for an unceremonious sleep-over following the death of his wife. Robert plans on sleeping over at the narrator’s house before continuing on to visit his wife’s family nearby. The narrator is very negative towards Robert, in part because of his wife’s past relationship with Robert, but mostly due to Robert’s blindness. He states that he has never been around a blind person before, making his stigma towards blind people evident.

Throughout the night, the narrator’s interactions with Robert become fluent yet uneasy with his wife’s departure to bed. As he and Robert sit on the couch with a program pertaining to cathedrals on the TV as background noise, the narrator asks Robert if he is aware of what a cathedral was, while proceeding (and ultimately failing) to describe one to him. This, in turn, gives Robert an idea that he and the narrator draw a cathedral together. He and Robert proceed to draw together, hand in hand, while the narrator closes his eyes at the behest of Robert.

What becomes of the drawing is unknown but the narrator seems to become spiritually aware of the “sight” Robert appears to own. Carver’s proposal of the blind man becoming the light-bearer of a close-minded individual captures the quintessential ideal to not judge a book by its cover.

Carver, Raymond. Cathedral: Stories. New York: Knopf, 1983. Print.




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