Cathedral by Raymond Carver Research Paper

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Raymond Carver's short story "Cathedral" is considered to be one of the writer's best writings and is probably one of the main reasons for which he experienced professional progress. Even with the fact that this particular text ends in a more positive note in comparison to some of his other stories, it is nonetheless filled with elements characteristic to the writer. The writer himself appears to be especially confident that this story is different from his earlier works and involves a lot more hope in writing it. "Cathedral" contains ideas related to the importance of connecting with one another, understanding, and addiction.

Carver was born in a dysfunctional family in Clatskanie, Oregon, and spent the early part of his life struggling to earn a living for himself and for the family he started when he was eighteen. He virtually did everything that he could with the purpose of providing for his family, but he eventually came to acknowledge his interest in literature. He attended Chico State College

in 1958 and as a result of being supported by his teachers in pursuing his love for writing poetry he came to write a series of poems throughout the 1960s (Sklenicka 72). He published his first collection, "Near Klamath," in 1968 and followed with a series of other poetry collections through the 70s and 80s (Sklenicka 145).

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In spite of his talent, Carver also experienced great distress as a result of being an alcoholic during his years of apogee. After being hospitalized on a series of occasions as a result of his condition he finally stopped drinking in 1977 and lived until 1988, when he died of lung cancer. Carver had a unique writing style and some of his most passionate critics did not hesitate to compare him with individuals like Ernest Hemingway and Anton Chekhov (Sklenicka 367).

Research Paper on Cathedral by Raymond Carver Assignment

Raymond Carver is typically associated with a bleak perspective on life and he is often compared to Hemingway in attempt to emphasize the pessimistic character of most of his works. In contrast, "Cathedral" stands out and makes it possible for readers to understand that there is more to Carver than meets the eye (as if this was not observable when seeing his first works). Although he used different elements in writing "Cathedral," he did not hesitate to continue to use simple people as characters. Also, he made it seem that the story refers to a frustrated individual who is unable to understand things that he initially has nothing to do. The first part of the story is likely to have most people feel that Carver did not abandon his bleak writing style when writing this short story (Cathedral: Shmoop Literature Guide 1).

The story starts by presenting readers with the central character and with his generally pessimistic attitude concerning everything and everyone that he interacts with. The narrator openly puts across his lack of support in regard to how his wife is going to have her blind friend visiting her. He appears to feel insecure and this enables readers to comprehend his frustration and even to identify with him. Most people would be uncomfortable with having their wives invite a friend that they seem to be especially appreciative of and would behave similar to the narrator by being hesitant about communicating very much with the respective individual. By presenting a blue-collar protagonist and by providing him with an attitude that can be found in most people, the narrator virtually expresses his interest in trying to have as many individuals understand his short story.

The narrator finds it difficult to accept that her wife's appreciation of the blind man appears to be more than sympathy. His tendency to see Robert as being a person that one should feel sorry for actually emphasizes that he wants to perceive the blind man as being a desperate case. The fact that Robert is nothing as he thought he was demonstrates that the narrator felt his role as a husband was being threatened.

The narrator is a jealous individual and when considering that he is reluctant to allow his wife to meet a blind man from her past it actually becomes obvious that his jealousy knows no limits. His frustration goes as far as to make him jealous on a handicapped person, thus meaning that he is extremely insecure with his masculinity and that he feels threatened by practically any male individuals in his wife's life. To a certain degree, one might be inclined to believe that the narrator has reasons to believe that it would be wrong for his wife to meet men in her past because he considers that she is easy. Also, his insecurity might be interpreted as proof that he seriously underestimates himself and this makes it difficult for him to take on challengers, regardless of their condition.

Robert's physical condition (not considering the fact that he is blind) further contributes to making the narrator feel insecure. He almost seems to feel unhappy with the fact that Robert is a person that can entertain him. He would have rather met a person who was very displeasing and who would make him certain that his wife would not be attracted to him or her. The fact that the blind man is easygoing and looks at life from the perspective of a teenager is actually what influences the narrator in changing his perspective on life and on society as a whole. The narrator sees Robert and feels like he needs to appreciate life to the fullest in order to be happy, as doing otherwise simply makes people paranoid and unable to enjoy life.

The relationship between Robert and the narrator is very intriguing because it is similar to the relationship between a psychologist and his patient. Like most individuals visiting the psychologist the narrator initially feels that it would be pointless for him to enjoy the time he spends with Robert. However, he gradually comes to understand the blind man and eventually discovers that he needs to employ an attitude similar to Robert's in order to be able to be happy.

What is impressive about the Robert, the blind person in the short story, is that he is nothing like the narrator. This person has all the reasons for being pessimistic, for expressing criticism concerning all people, and for generally considering that he needs to cling on to his possessions with all of his power. Instead, Robert "shows remarkable resilience" (Hunt 151) and makes it possible for readers to see a whole different attitude coming from Carver. Readers are basically influenced in seeing Carver as being similar to the narrator while Robert is a person who makes it possible for him to 'see the world through different eyes'. The interesting thing about this expression is that Robert is blind and that this does not prevent him from perceiving the world as being a beautiful place and life as something that needs to be enjoyed to the fullest.

The narrator's wife can actually be compared to Carver's readers when considering that she appreciates both the narrator and Robert, but is unwilling to accept the moment when the narrator becomes friends with the blind man and smokes a marijuana cigarette with him. The narrator himself seems surprised when he realizes that Robert really wants him to draw a cathedral. His surprise further magnifies when he comes to be guided by the blind man as they both draw on the piece of paper. By 'seeing' things from Robert's perspective the narrator abandons prejudice and gets actively involved in sympathizing with the blind man using all means available to him. "While at first it was the narrator who was in charge, drawing the cathedral on the heavy paper so that Robert could then move "the tips of his fingers over the paper" (227) to get some idea of what it looked like, by the time the story ends it's the blind man who is guiding the narrator, riding him with his fingers" (Runyon 184).

It is actually difficult to determine the exact feelings that Carver wants to transmit through this short story, as while some might feel that the text is optimistic other might be inclined to believe that it is simply meant to demonstrate that people who should actually be miserable trick themselves into thinking that life is great. The narrator's reluctance to open his eyes when he finally understands Robert can be interpreted as a protest. He feels that it is unfair for Robert to be blind and wants to sympathize with him by refusing to open his eyes, at least for a limited amount of time. The narrator basically goes from being a resolute person to being someone who is touched significantly and who is unable to contain his emotions at the time when he realizes that his perspective on life is flawed. The fact that "Robert turns out to be a natural born confounder of stereotypes" (Saltzman 153) comes in disagreement with the narrator thinking style and is… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Cathedral by Raymond Carver" Research Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Cathedral by Raymond Carver.  (2012, October 19).  Retrieved September 18, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Cathedral by Raymond Carver."  19 October 2012.  Web.  18 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Cathedral by Raymond Carver."  October 19, 2012.  Accessed September 18, 2020.