Cathedral Essay

Raymond Carver was a highly influential American short story writer and poet, known for his vivid depictions of the struggles and struggles that face everyday people. One of his most famous works, the short story “Cathedral”, explores themes of loneliness, isolation, and spirituality through the lens of an unlikely friendship between two very different men.

Set in the 1980s, “Cathedral” tells the story of Robert, a man who is struggling with depression and loneliness following his wife’s death. When Raymond visits him one night unannounced, he is shocked to find Raymond blindfolded at an oculus window – but Raymond seems more focused on teaching Raymond how to “see” than on anything else. Over time, Raymond teaches Robert about the beauty of the world around them and helps him rediscover his sense of purpose and connection to others.

Despite its seemingly simple narrative, “Cathedral” is a powerful examination of the human experience, exploring themes of spirituality, isolation, and identity. Through Raymond’s character, Carver offers a poignant meditation on what it means to truly see – both literally and figuratively – in a complex world full of pain and suffering. Whether you’re a fan of Raymond Carver or simply looking for an engaging short story to read, “Cathedral” is well worth your time.

In the short story “Cathedral,” by Raymond Carver, the narrator draws a cathedral with his blind visitor and transforms from a narrow-minded, materialistic, and superficial person to someone who values spiritual truths in life. Bub is so closed-minded, jealous, and materialistic that he refuses to assist someone in need or sympathize with others’ difficulties before meeting the egoist narrator.

The story argues that Raymond Carver is a great writer because he is able to realistically and accurately portray the workings of an individual’s mind as they experience a life-changing event.

The story opens with the narrator, Bub, complaining about his wife’s decision to invite Robert, a blind man, to stay with them for a few days. Bub is resentful of Robert’s presence because he believes that his wife is more interested in helping people than she is in spending time with him. Bub also feels like he has to be extra careful around Robert because he does not want to appear rude or insensitive.

When Bub is left alone with Robert, he starts to feel uncomfortable and awkward. In order to make conversation, Bub asks Robert to describe a cathedral that he visited once, hoping to find something in common with this stranger. To his surprise, Robert is able to accurately and vividly recall the details of the cathedral and its various architectural features.

As Bub listens to Robert’s descriptions, he begins to see things from a new perspective and recognizes how limited his own worldview has been up until that point. He realizes that despite their differences, he and Robert are very similar – both are human beings who experience joys, sorrows, hopes, and fears. Through their conversation about the cathedral, Bub comes to understand the spiritual nature of life on a deeper level, gaining an appreciation for all the people around him who may be experiencing difficult times or who just need a little bit of help.

In the end, Raymond Carver’s short story “Cathedral” serves as a powerful reminder that it is important to open our minds and hearts to others, even if they seem different or foreign at first. By doing so, we can learn from their experiences and find common ground with people who may once have seemed like strangers. Through this lens, Raymond Carver emerges as an insightful writer who is able to capture the struggles and triumphs of the human experience in his work.

Robert helps Bub open his mind to the spiritual world and develop empathy for others by way of this emotional link. Thus, Carver is suggesting that emotional connections might alter one’s perspective of their surroundings and help one be spiritually aware.

The reader is informed that Bub, the narrator, was once materialistic, emotionally disconnected, and narrow-minded. Bub’s wife claims that he “doesn’t have any friends… forever” (Carver 95) demonstrating how alienated from society he is. Bub focuses on the physical aspects of the world rather than what’s on the inside.

For example, when first meeting Robert, the narrator says that he “wasn’t exactly what I had expected…I guess I’d thought he would be bigger” (Carver 96). The physical appearance of people and objects are all Bub can see. This is likely due to the fact that Bub does not try to look beyond the surface level of things. Additionally, Bub is closed-minded as shown when he is talking about Raymond’s wife Beulah.

He says that she is “A big woman with a head too small for her body. She wore these tacky little hats all the time” (Carver 97). By critiquing Beulah’s appearance, Bub is not only being shallow, but he is also indicating that he made a judgement about her without getting to know her. Furthermore, when Raymond and Beulah first enter the narrator’s home, Bub immediately feels uncomfortable.

He says “I tried hard not to show how nervous I was…I wanted Raymond and Beulah to feel at home” (Carver 98). Bub’s uneasiness around Raymond and Beulah likely stems from the fact that he does not know how to act around them since they are different from him. Raymond is blind and Beulah is obese which are both characteristics that Bub is not used to. Consequently, Bub’s initial materialism, emotional disconnection, and closed-mindedness all contribute to his lack of understanding of the spiritual world.

When Raymond and Beulah first enter the narrator’s home, Raymond begins to feel around the room just using his hands. The narrator says “He would run his hands along things…He would stop and touch something again” (Carver 98). Raymond is having what Carver refers to as a “moment of connection” (Carver Teaching 4) with his surroundings.

He is trying to understand his new environment by feeling it instead of just looking at it. Moments of connection are important because they allow people to be open-minded and learn about new things. They also help people feel empathy for others. In contrast, when Raymond and Beulah first enter the narrator’s home, Raymond says that “He could hear the people breathe” (Carver 99).

Raymond is able to perceive things around him by listening instead of just looking at them. Raymond also feels a connection with his surroundings as he is walking around saying things like “That’s soft!…Smooth!” (Carver 99). Raymond is feeling everything that he touches which helps him understand it better and feel a deeper connection to his surroundings.

Eventually, Raymond invites the narrator to touch the cathedral. This moment marks a turning point for the narrator because he experiences what Raymond has felt all along: spiritual awareness. The narrator ends up becoming emotional and crying because he finally understands the spiritual world. Raymond has opened the narrator’s eyes to a whole new way of perceiving the world.

Raymond has helped the narrator see that there is more to life than just what is on the surface. Raymond has helped the narrator feel empathy for others and understand that everyone experiences the world differently. The moment when the narrator touches the cathedral is significant because it represents a change in the narrator’s perspective. The experience has made him more open-minded, compassionate, and spiritually aware.

Raymond Carver’s Cathedral is a short story about a materialistic, emotionally disconnected man who learns to see the world from a different perspective after meeting a blind man and his wife. The story highlights the importance of moments of connection, empathy, and spiritual awareness. Raymond Carver uses Bub, the narrator, to demonstrate how a materialistic, closed-minded person can change after experiencing something new.

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