Academic Master


Cathedral by Raymond Carver

Thesis statement: Effective choice of literary devices, including dramatic irony, emotional appeal, logos, and symbolism, illustrates the real meaning of blindness.

Raymond Carver’s story “Cathedral” conveys the themes of envy, insecurity, isolation, and detachment. The narrator exhibits jealousy as he talks about the relationship between Robert and his wife. The tone used by Carver in explaining events under the narrator’s voice transmits jealousy. The narrator perceives the visit of Robert as inconvenient and unpleasant. The narrator portrays restricting imagination that Carver identifies as blindness. Carver, in the story, adopts an ironic tone as he compares the characters of the narrator with Robert. Irony becomes most visible when the author tries to show how Robert allows the narrator to develop new insights and see things from a broader perspective. Irony also emerges at the end of the story permitting the narrator to open his eyes.

Carver, in the story, uses influential writing techniques reflected in the adoption of the first-person narrative. The unnamed man narrating the story reveals the realities of his detachment. The strategy of Carver allows him to build suspicion among audiences as they try to explore the personality of the narrator and understand his limited viewpoints. Through the story, Craver conceals the name of the narrator though he provides hinds helping readers to recognize him as the first husband of the woman. A theme of insecurities is more evident in the character analysis of the narrator as he continually exhibits disgust against Robert. He prefers to remain ignorant reflected in his decision of not listening to the tapes of Robert. He is unable to find his inclusion in the tape because his disbelief overrides his skepticism. Craver, in the story, displays detachment through the character of the narrator, becoming perceptible in his dislike.

Carver, through emphasizing the relationship between Robert and the narrator develops emotions of empathy. The theme of isolation becomes discernible when the narrator fails to hear his name in the conversations between his wife and the narrator. The story suggests that the narrator remains disconnected from most of the events taking place in the life of his wife. Disconnection is not only limited to human relations but appears in his weak bond with the god. The narrator exhibits less religious thoughts as explored by Robert. Carver, through the character of the narrator, conveys the blindness becoming evident in the scene when he is unable to explain the cathedrals to Robert. Though the narrator views himself as superior and better compared to Robert symbolically, he is blind. Carver confers the belief that physical appearance deceives people, but inner insights display the actual nature and personality of an individual.

The writing techniques of Carver permit readers to explore a sense of equality by the end of the story. Through pathos, the author tries to convince readers about the hidden realities. The readers develop emotions of sympathy for Robert during their early encounter with the character, which later transforms into appreciation. The physical limitations of Robert do not restrict his intelligence, in fact, he holds greater visionary power when compared to the narrator. The readers, through pathos, constantly explore the reality of Robert and identify him as a stronger man. The selection of effective settings permits the author to create relevance between Robert’s blindness and the limited vision of the narrator. The readers explore the reality by recognizing the weaknesses of the narrator portraying him as a man with low levels of intellectualism. The emotional appeal adds more fascination for the readers as they try to uncover the realities of Robert’s blindness. Emotions are also apparent as the author tries to transmit tensions existing in the relationship of a married couple. Carver mentions, “Even after he found out that his wife was going to pull through, he was still very depressed . . . I’m telling you, the man’s heart was breaking because he couldn’t turn his goddamn head and see his goddamn wife . . . he couldn’t look at the fucking woman” (Carver 115). Through displaying tensions, Carver links the actions to the makeup of the story as portrayed through the use of alcohol. Alcohol in the story acts as a social lubricant, building stronger connections of the readers with the characters.

Through symbolism Carver manages to convey the deeper meaning of the events related to the story. Alcohol in the story symbolizes high tensions prevailing between the couple, a damaged relationship, and an attempt to escape the darker realities of the world. Through the narrator, the author symbolizes human weaknesses and inability to handle insecurities. The weaknesses of the character promote emotions of hopelessness and disappointment reflected through the increased dependence of the narrator on alcohol. It also symbolizes an inability to control, resulting in disconnection. Symbolism is apparent in the cathedral as Carver claims that there is nothing symbolic between men drawing the cathedral. The narrator struggles to find accurate worlds during his attempts to explain the cathedral to Robert. It is only through Robert’s help that he manages to draw it on the paper. His complexities emerge as he mentions, “How could I even begin to describe [a cathedral]? But say my life depended on it. Say my life was being threatened by an insane guy who said I had to do it or else” (Carver 36). Through the narrator, the author tries to highlight how people with limited thoughts are unable to express things because they are incapable of seeing things.

Carver, through his effective writing tries to create a perfect human nature. He builds relevance of limited vision with jealousy, “she told me he touched his fingers to every part of her face, her nose—even her neck! She never forgot it. She tried to write a poem about it [as she did] after something really important happened to her” (Carver 210). The use of touch in the text reveals the jealousy of the husband, who is unable to accept the relationship of his wife with another man. Jealousy against shows blindness, as the man with dubiousness is unable to recognize the friendship of his wife with another man. Carver tries to build a connection between emotions of insecurity and jealousy. It also indicates the close-minded state of a man belonging to a patriarchal system and tries to claim his ownership over his wife.

Logos is apparent in Cathedral as it lacks meaning for the one suffering from blindness. Logic is apparent in the exploration of events showing how a physically fit man lacks the ability to understand facts. Through consistent use of logos, Carver tries to build a connection between physical blindness and actual blindness. Actual blindness, according to the author, is not a visionary impairment, but it is the inability of a normal human to see actuality in things. Logos are visible in “my eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything” (Carver 37). The text provides reasoning about the limited skepticism of the narrator. Irrespective of his perfect health he is unable to see things as they are, thus depicting his limited sight. The inclusion of evidence in the story helps the reader to identify the state of the narrator.

Dramatic irony is another rhetorical tool used by Carver in the creation of the cathedral. An irony emerges as the author states, “a woman whose husband could never read the expression on her face, be it misery or something better. Someone who could wear makeup or not – what difference to him? She could if she wanted to wear green eyeshadow around one eye, a straight pin in her nostril, yellow slacks and purple shoes, no matter” (Carver 30). The quote expresses the allegory that is sufficient to portray the picture of the woman in the story. It transmits the idea that only a man with deeper insights is capable of learning the true feelings of a woman. The irony reflects that a blind man is capable of understanding a woman better than his normal husband. To see reality, one does not need eyes but needs vision and thoughtfulness. The narrator could not reveal the reality of his wife because he never used his mind. The blind man without eyes manages to see the deeper feelings and desires of a woman, while her husband is unable to see the same from his eyes.

The analysis of the literary devices incorporated by Carver in his short story Cathedral reveals the deeper meaning of blindness. The story uses a dramatic ironical tone to transmit the viewpoints of the author showing the difference between perceived and actual blindness. The author adopts an influential writing style to highlight the weaknesses of the narrator by reflecting in insecurity, jealousy, and isolation. Through symbolism, Carver provides hints about the tensions existing between couples. Logos represents the comparison of perfections with imperfections leading to the relevance of blindness with damaged relationships. Through effective use of pathos, the author tries to persuade the audience about his views. Concrete words in the story connect the visible actions with the narrative. Contrasting the thoughts of two men altogether allows Carver to show how limited thinking results in insecurities and isolation.


Carver, R. (1989). Cathedral. Vintage.



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