Raymond Carver's Short Story "Cathedral Essay

Pages: 3 (1019 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] This is evident in the ways the narrator describes the cathedrals on television purely in terms of their architectural forms and functions, and also in the way the blind man unapologetically states that he does not know what the difference is between a Catholic cathedral and a protestant church. The narrator tries to explain, and states, "n those olden days, when they built cathedrals, men wanted to be close to God. In those olden days, God was an important part of everyone's life. You could tell this from their cathedral- building," (section 101). Thus, the narrator categorically distances himself from those "olden days" when God was "important." The blind man also agrees tacitly that God and religion are no longer necessary for an individual to develop spiritual awareness or live a good life.

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Finally, prejudice and the release from its mental stranglehold, is one of the most important themes in Carver's "Cathedral." The narrator is prejudiced overtly against the blind man, not only because the blind man threatens the narrator's sexuality but also because his sightlessness makes the narrator uneasy. However, the narrator is aware that his prejudices are irrational. "And his being blind bothered me. My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed," (section 1). Throughout the story, the narrator admits his ridiculous notions of what a blind man can and cannot do. For example, the narrator states, "I remembered having read somewhere that the blind didn't smoke because, as speculation had it, they couldn't see the smoke they exhaled," (section 43).

Essay on Raymond Carver's Short Story "Cathedral" Assignment

Moreover, the narrator reveals his racial prejudices and lack of sensitivity for race issues. Whereas the blind man is literally blind to color, the narrator asks, "Was his wife a Negro?" (Section 12). By the time Carver wrote "Cathedral," in the 1980s, the word Negro had fallen out of use and this term can therefore be considered a racial slur (Kiviat). Palmer points out that the word Negro was "was totally uncouth by the mid-1980s," which is why the wife asks her husband if he is drunk. Yet the narrator emerges as someone who is willing and able to change.

Change becomes the salvific motif of "Cathedral," which ends on a literally and figuratively high note. After smoking pot together, the blind man and the narrator are able to bond. The blind man holds the narrator's hand as he draws the cathedral, an act of physical intimacy and bonding. It is ironic that the narrator and the blind man are more physically intimate than the narrator's wife and the blind man. All three of them, then, have opened their hearts.

Work Cited

Carver, Raymond. "Cathedral." In American Literature Since the Civil War.

Kiviat, Barbara. "Should the Census Be Asking People if They Are Negro?" Time. Retrieved online: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1955923,00.html

Palmer, Brian. "When did the Word Negro Become Taboo" Retrieved online: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2010/01/when_did_the_word_negro_become_taboo.html [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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