Cathedral Evaluation, Interpretation, & Experience Essay

Pages: 4 (1431 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Written: September 16, 2018


[. . .] When the blind man begins to ask the narrator to describe the cathedral, however, the narrator begins to enter into himself more deeply and to think about what a cathedral is and what it was made for. He recognizes that people built cathedrals in the old days because they wanted to be near God. He himself has no religion and has never thought about it. With some prompting from the blind man, he begins to think about religion in spite of himself. He realizes that by looking inward, he can see what he has not been seeing his whole life—the need for spirituality. Carver characterizes the epiphany by staying true to the narrator’s character and his lack of words: he describes it only as “something.”

Irony and Spiritually in Raymond Carver's “Cathedral”

The story has a touch of irony to it as well: to see spiritually one must give up the external sight, because the eyes can get too distracted with the physical. The spiritual sight requires the use of the imagination. The narrator does not care for poetry by his own admission, which indicates that he is not used to employing his imagination. Yet, it is the blind man who invites him to really use his imagination for once in his life—“close your eyes” he says—and the result is that the narrator finally begins to see things in a spiritual way.

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The symbol of the cathedral helps to convey the epiphany: the cathedral is an Old World monument to faith. In the modern world, monuments to atheism abound. The soulless features of the skyscrapers that stretch upwards not to God but to some idea of money and power: these convey skeptical, cynical attitudes, embodied by the narrator. But by closing his eyes, he begins to embody the Old World spirituality that the blind man embraces.

Essay on Cathedral Evaluation, Interpretation, & Experience Assignment

Thus, the plot of the story is deceptively subtle but really quite rich, as Facknitz notes: there is not much action, but the set-up delivers a solid punch and shows why it is necessary to take time to reflect, close one’s eyes, and look into the soul. The plot is simply this: a blind friend of the narrator’s wife comes to stay and the narrator is somewhat put out by it. However, he tries to be a good host most of the time, though he has a cynical attitude towards the blind man. However, when the narrator begins to describe a cathedral to the blind man, the narrator’s attitude changes: he becomes sincere and interested in what it means to be a cathedral; in other words, he has a kind of spiritual revelation.

Carver’s own life was not what one might call that of a saint. His first marriage ended in divorce, like that of the wife of his narrator in “Cathedral.” He taught at a university in order to facilitate his career as a writer. However, he also knew that to love and to be loved is “something” special and “something” that makes life meaningful, as Stull points out. It was this side of Carver that made him spiritual. Thus, the values that the story endorses appear to be that for one to truly be a human being, one has to be willing to drop the bitterness and resentment and to be able to place oneself in another’s shoes. This is what love is like and faith is really like an act of love.

In conclusion, Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” is a work that invites the reader to look inside oneself. It is a story that uses an unlikeable narrator to show how in reality we can all be somewhat unlikeable. But with a little help, and a little good will, we can begin to be better versions of ourselves—just by closing one’s eyes and entering into the cathedral within ourselves.

Works Cited
  1. DiYanni, Robert. Literature: Approaches to Fiction, Poetry and Drama, 2nd Edition. McGraw-Hill, 2006.
  2. Facknitz, Mark AR. "Raymond Carver and the menace of minimalism." CEA Critic 52.1/2 (1989): 62-73.
  3. Mirarchi, Steve. "Conditions of Possibility: Religious Revision in Raymond Carver's" Cathedral"." Religion and the Arts 2.3 (1998): 299-310.
  4. Stull, William L. "Beyond Hopelessville: Another Side of Raymond Carver."  Philological Quarterly 64.1 (1985): 1.

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How to Cite "Cathedral Evaluation, Interpretation, & Experience" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Cathedral Evaluation, Interpretation, & Experience.  (2018, September 16).  Retrieved March 28, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Cathedral Evaluation, Interpretation, & Experience."  16 September 2018.  Web.  28 March 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Cathedral Evaluation, Interpretation, & Experience."  September 16, 2018.  Accessed March 28, 2020.