Cathedral Raymond Carver's Short Story "The Cathedral" Essay

Length: 3 pages Sources: 3 Subject: Literature Type: Essay Paper: #70287660 Related Topics: Short Story, Raymond Carver, Short, Postmodern Literature
Excerpt from Essay :


Raymond Carver's short story "The Cathedral" develops the theme of seeing the world clearly by using rich symbolism, irony, character development, and a postmodern tone and style. The blind man represents an unconventional mode of perception. Without a fundamental sensory input, the blind man relies on alternative methods of acquiring information and especially of interacting with others. His sightlessness at first bothers the narrator, but by the end of the story, the narrator has become transformed by the experience of closing his eyes to receive the more dramatic wisdom within. Therefore, being blind ironically symbolizes being able to see.

Irony is a central literary element in "The Cathedral," allowing Carver to develop the core theme of how to perceive reality with honesty and vision. Interestingly, smoking pot ironically imparts a sense of clarity to the narrator and the blind man. The drug opens up pathways of communication between the narrator and Robert, allowing the two men to bond on a deep and meaningful level. Moreover, the cathedral is also an ironic symbol in that it is a traditional religious edifice that bears little relevance to the modern world. Cathedrals are historical monuments and vestiges of the past, which...


Television is also an ironic motif in the story because the medium is not associated with intelligent discourse. For the narrator and Robert, television provides a key to their being able to break down barriers and thus makes them both wiser. Moreover, television depends on both sight and sound to convey its messages. It is precisely because Robert cannot see that he needs the narrator to help him understand what a cathedral is. Ironically, not being able to see the cathedral helps Robert to visualize one for the first time. It is also powerfully ironic that the narrator also "sees" reality for the first time when he shuts his eyes. "It was like nothing else in my life up to now," (Carver 14). Being temporarily blind becomes a transformative experience for the narrator.

The narrator's character development is a pivotal literary element in Carver's "The Cathedral." When the narrator first meets Robert, he is besieged with prejudicial thoughts. He feels sorry not only for Robert's not being able to see, but also sorry for Robert's now deceased wife. "I found myself thinking what a pitiful life this woman must have led. Imagine a woman who could never see herself as she was seen in the eyes of her loved one," (Carver 4). As the narrator soon learns, there are more ways of seeing than with the eyes. In fact, the narrator learns the limitations of the physical senses when he closes his eyes and draws the cathedral while Robert's hand touches his. Robert's mode of seeing is through the sense of touch, which is far more intimate than sight. At first, the narrator cannot understand this. When he experiences the power of touch for himself at the end…

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Carver, Raymond. "The Cathedral." [Word Document].

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