Tracing a Theme Through Three Short Stories Essay

Pages: 6 (1660 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

¶ … Archibald the Arctic," "The Cathedral," "Reunion"

Michael Winter's "Archibald the Arctic," Raymond Carver's "The Cathedral," and John Cheever's "Reunion" all contain an element that makes it possible for readers to think about a journey for self-discovery. Gabriel English, the central character in "Archibald the Arctic" has his brother to help him realize that he is wasting his life living in accordance with false values. The narrator in "The Cathedral" needs to interact with a miserable person who feels happy about who he is in order to acknowledge that it would only be normal for him to enjoy life. Similarly, the narrator in "Reunion" fails to gain a more complex understanding of life until his drunken father forces him to do so. All of these three characters experience something similar to rebirth and eventually realize that they need to change their perspective about life in order to feel good about themselves.

Each of the short stories contains an antagonist: "Archibald the Arctic" has Junior, Gabe's brother as an example, "The Cathedral" has the narrator himself as an example, while "Reunion" has the narrator's father as an example. These antagonists each play essential roles in having central characters feel that their perspective on life is flawed and that they need to get actively involved in restructuring it.

Archibald the Arctic

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Winter focuses on portraying Gabriel as being a young man who has trouble adjusting and who feels that his brother is the perfect version of how he wants to be in life. Even with the fact that Junior constantly gets into trouble, Gabriel fails to observe that his brother is a slacker. The protagonist is blinded by his brother's ability to have fun regardless of the situation that he is in. It appears that the protagonist virtually wants to behave like his brother but is afraid to take on such an attitude. He is apparently satisfied with simply accompanying Junior and enjoying the time that they spend together. One can go as far as to say that Gabriel exploits Junior because he believes that he will never be able to be like him.

Essay on Tracing a Theme Through Three Short Stories Assignment

Junior has a bad influence of Gabriel because he makes his younger brother feel that it is perfectly normal for him to engage in immoral behaviors. Moreover, he makes it seem that people actually enjoy themselves when they come across a dangerous situation and thus makes it possible for Gabriel to consider that there is nothing wrong with him supporting all of his brother's activities without protest. Gabriel's young mind fails to see things from a more general point-of-view because he is impressed with the sensational episodes that he and his brother come across.

While Junior is a bad example for Gabriel, he is nonetheless efficient in guiding him through life and in teaching him the difference between right and wrong. It is almost as if Junior unknowingly educates his brother by providing him with the harsh reality of life and by enabling him to understand that one first needs to experience pain in order for the respective individual to be able to avoid it in the future.

Most people (and even himself) considered Gabriel to be "the good son" (Winter 28). This points toward the belief that the protagonist was somewhat frustrated with his position and that he felt that people did not believe that he could ever do something surprising. Junior managed to make it in a society where Gabriel felt like a stranger and this is probably one of the principal things that got the narrator to consider his brother an idol.

The Cathedral

Carver's "The Cathedral" relates to an account involving the narrator as the central character. This person is frustrated with the fact that his wife remained friends with many of the individuals whom she met before she married the narrator. He is extremely insecure and feels that his wife's decision to invite over a blind man named Robert to dinner is thoughtless. It is difficult to determine whether he feels threatened by a male individual coming into his house or whether he simply does not want his wife to have anything to do with her past experiences -- a life that he considers to be more interesting than the one she has with him.

The moment when he meets Robert and learns more about how this man 'sees' the world makes it possible for the narrator to change his perspective on life. He no longer feels that it is important for him to adopt a defensive stance with regard to any individual he considers to represent a threat. Also, he comes to acknowledge that he actually needs to abandon his principles in order to be able to appreciate life.

Robert is a person who succeeds in enjoying his life in spite of the fact that he is blind and this is one of the principal concepts influencing the narrator in thinking that the man is strange. The blind man is a person who, in spite of the fact that is limited by his handicap, does not hesitate to drink or smoke marijuana. The fact that he has a beard makes it possible for readers to look at the connection between Robert and the narrator as being a connection between someone who is very experienced in going through life, and respectively, someone who is afraid to live. The narrator probably accepts to smoke cannabis with the purpose of emphasizing that he is man enough to do it.

It is not until the narrator sympathizes with Robert that he actually realizes that it was wrong for him to hate or even judge the man. It is then when he learns that his attitude toward Robert and toward life in general up to that point was negativistic. He virtually comes to differentiate between the person he is consequent to drawing the cathedral with Robert and the one he was previous to that moment. It is almost as if he had two personalities and the one that can actually understand life without being paranoid came out as a result of the fact that Robert enabled it to do so. The antagonist in this short story in none other than the narrator himself, as he is the person responsible for preventing himself from enjoying life and from seeing the goodness in some people.


Charlie's 90 minute meeting with his father in "Reunion" provides readers with an intriguing perspective of the man's understanding of a father-son relationship and of how he wants to be normal in spite of the fact that life was cruel to him when considering his family. Similar to the other two short stories, this man looked at a person as being an important part of his life and refrained from cooling his relationship with him. Gabriel looked up to his brother and it was not until when he realized that he was shadowed by Junior that he decided to break his relationship with him. The narrator in "The Cathedral" had a special bond with his frustrated personality and the moment when he received an emotional blow as a result of Robert's presence in his house made him realize that it was wrong for him to continue to put across a paranoid attitude with regard to the world.

Charlie is in a position similar to the one that Gabriel and the narrator in "The Cathedral" were in previous to rediscovering themselves. He believes that he has a complex understanding of life and that it would be impossible for things not to work as he wants them to as long as he sticks to his plan. Gabriel and the protagonist in Carver's short story both suffered as a result of stubbornly keeping their principles in spite of the fact that they were well-acquainted with… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Tracing a Theme Through Three Short Stories" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Tracing a Theme Through Three Short Stories.  (2012, October 31).  Retrieved September 24, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Tracing a Theme Through Three Short Stories."  31 October 2012.  Web.  24 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Tracing a Theme Through Three Short Stories."  October 31, 2012.  Accessed September 24, 2020.