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Critical Analysis of Cathedral by Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver is one of the greatest and most influential American short-story writers and a prolific poet the 20th century (Gray 122). Raymond forms the major revival of the short story in 1980s. This paper will provide a critical analysis of the Carver’s well-known short story titled Cathedral. Cathedral is the final story in the Carver’s collection published in 1983.Critical analysis of the story is essential since its publication, he has received both criticism and praise he had longed for. It is evident that throughout the story, the narrator undergoes a transformation and self-realization process.

The short story revolved around the unnamed narrator and his wife who previously worked for a blind man known as Robert, whose wife died just recently. Robert came to visit narrator’s wife though her husband is not happy about it. The narrator utters that his wife’s blind friend will spend the night at their residence (Carver 104). He elucidates that his wife met Roberts about a decade ago when she used to work for him as a reader in Seattle. He further notes that during the last day of her job, she touched her face and wrote a poem about the experience. The narrator has further described his wife’s past life and notes that she married her childhood friend thus becoming an officer’s wife. However, she was unhappy with the life and attempted suicide several times by swallowing the pills though she eventually survived. However, the wife and the blind man keep on touch using an audiotape sent back and forth throughout their marriage period (Carver 104).

The narrator’s wife picks the blind man at the train station, and he wait in his residence. When they arrive, the narrator watches his wife and the blind laugh and talk as she lead him to the compound. The narrator appears shocked to see the blind man has a full beard. Narrator is introduced to the blind, whose real name is Robert (Peterson 167). While sitting in the house, her wife looks at him but appear to dislike what she sees. Narrator though he has never known the blind before, he describe the blind and his dressing code. According to the narrator, the blind does not wear dark glasses, an aspect she find strange since his eyes look strange and weird. Furthermore, contrary to narrator’s expectation, the blind smokes cigarettes. After having dinner together, Robert and narrator’s wife talks about things that occurred in the last 10 years. In the course of the conversation, narrator learned that Robert and friend used to run an Amway distributorship (Peterson 168). However, when Robert asks narrator’s questions, he only offers short response, which is a sign of discontentment with his presence.

When the narrator’s wife goes upstairs to change cloth, narrator, and the blind man are left along. They both smoke a joint offered by Narrator. In the meantime, there is a program about the middle age on the television. Robert tells the narrator that he likes learning things. When the television narrator fails to describe what is happening, Robert asks the narrator to explain to him (Peterson 169). The television narrator describes different cathedrals located in different countries. Consequently, Roberts ask narrator whether he knows how a cathedral looks like, the narrator responds that he doesn’t. When asked to narrate, he tried through aware that he does not offer a perfect explanation. As result, Robert asks the narrator to find a paper and a pen and draw a cathedral. Robert put his hand over the narrator’s hand and follows the movement of the pen. Thereafter, he asks the narrator to close his eyes and keep drawing and only request him to open his eyes to see what he has drawn, but narrators fail to open. While his eyes are still closed, he tells Robert the drawing is perfect (Carver 104).

In the short story, Carver uses the first person narrator to narrate the story in order to emphasize the mystifying aspects of the unequaled moment that he strives to relate the story. The unnamed narrator appears self-absorbed and only concerned with how Robert’s visit will affect him notwithstanding the role played by Robert in his wife’s past (Gray 122). In addition, the narrator lacks self-awareness and situation surrounding the Robert’s and his wife relations. He sympathizes with Robert’s wife because her husband could never see her, without realizing that he does not know her wife well despite the fact that he not visually impaired like Robert (Gray 122). Through in-depth critical analysis of the story, it is evident that the narrator is not a skilled storyteller; he crudely put his narrative together in an incoherent manner, with numerous rough transitions and self-protective disruptions. For instance, when referring to his wife’s childhood lover, he interrupts in, Why should he have a name? He was the childhood lover, what else does he want? Such kind of interruptions reveals the jealous nature of the narrator and indicates relationship instability between him and her wife.

When Robert arrives in narrator’s home, the narrator strives much to make sense of him. He defines Robert’s appearance, including his eyes and action in an awkward manner. The ways in which Robert smokes cigarettes or cut his meat during supper appear to irritate the narrator. Raymond Carver use of the first-person narrator is efficient particularly in the scenes since it depicts Robert appear abnormal or alien since the narrator has not idea of what Robert can or cannot achieve. Similarly, the moment Robert becomes more human to the narrator; he takes shape even for the reader as well (Sasani and Raymond 223). At the end of the narration, where the Roberts request the narrator to draw a cathedral with his eyes close, the narrator divulges in the strangeness of the undertaking, and his confusion makes this unequalled moment even more emotional. It is an outstanding moment, but the narrator lack of sophisticated account of the event it a human moment as well.

Raymond Carver’s completes the story with a zero ending, an aspect that leaves the narrator’s eyes close, visualization the cathedral he drew with Robert. A zero ending implies an ending that fails to know together neatly the key strands of the narration. In some case, it might not be perceived as an ending since the author seems to have left off the story in the central of the idea or thought (Sasani and Raymond 219).. Instead of crafting a florid conclusion that leaves the reader satisfied, the Raymond ends his narrations abruptly when the characters are faced with twinkle of hope, unambiguous understanding or even confusion. In comparison, the zero ending strategy was utilized by Hemingway to end his short narrations. Also just like Hemingway, Carver writes in a sparse and masculine elegance, which together with his favorite style of ending the story has prompted many readers to compare and contrast the two prolific writers.

The abrupt ending of the story leaves many questions unanswered. For instance, a reader may ask the extent to which the narrator behavior changed after his experience with the Robert or whether his relation with her wife changed? However, answers to such question are not a critical point if the narrative (Sasani and Raymond 218). Cathedral narrative concerns the transformation of one man recognizes himself and the environment around and the author ends the narration the moment this transformation sparkles in the narrator's mind. The narrator as depicted in the story has not become a new person or realized any soul-transformation alignment. The narrator final moments reveal his old curt and the inarticulate individual he has been all along. However, the abrupt end adds an unexpected point of optimism to the narration. Although the narrator has been bitter and sarcastic, he has now attained a deeper self-conscious (Sasani and Raymond 219). The zero end leaves the reader breath held as the narrator sees the new environment crack open. The narrator’s point of view on the blind instantaneously reveals his ignorance and consequently builds a dramatic tension that appears to be resolved only when knowledge is exchanged at the end of the narrative. At this juncture, narrator, and the Robert together draw the sketch of the cathedral, an aspect that fulfills the narrator curiosity regarding what a cathedral really is.

In conclusion, it is evident that through Robert efforts, the narrators have undergone an internal transformation and soon acknowledges the limitations of his point of view. Robert manages to persuade the narrator to close his eyes while drawing the cathedral sketch, an aspect that makes the narrator practice things as the blind people always does (Sasani and Raymond 120). It is only thereafter that the narrator experiences some sense of freedom and pleasure. It is this point that the author suggests that the mind is the most vital component that defines our perception and perspective. The ultimate judgments we make are usually based on our minds rather than what we really view. Robert explicitly communicates this point to the Narrator thus eliciting some sense of self-conscious. Therefore, Carver offers an interesting lesson to the leader about the finding of the beauty and freedom from prejudgments, especially about our perception about the world with our minds and eyes (Carver 103).

Works Cited

  1. Carver, Raymond. "1983: Cathedral." The New York Times Book Review. (1996): 104. Print.
  2. Gray, Paul. "More Art from Less Matter: Cathedral by Raymond Carver." Time. 122.12 (1983). Print.
  3. Peterson, P.R. "Psychological Distance in Raymond Carver's Cathedral." Explicator. 70.3 (2012): 167-169. Print.
  4. Sasani, S. "Raymond Carver, Male and Female Interventions in "cathedral"." Theory and Practice in Language Studies. 4.1 (2014): 217-223. Print.

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