Analysis of Raymond Carver's "Cathedral"

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Cathedral is a story by Raymond Carver narrated by a man whose wife has invited, an old friend to visit their home. The Narrator’s old friend is a blind man whose name is Robert. “The blind man” as the narrator keeps on referring to him lost his wife recently to cancer. The narrator’s wife seems to have had an earlier connection with the blind man as she talks about how they could share their life secrets with Robert something that does not amuse the narrator though he is deviant to admit his jealousy over the intimacy and the close relationship that his wife and the blind man had with his wife. In a nutshell, the theme Raymond Carver tries to bring forward in his story is the theme of acceptance.

There are three major literary devices that the author employs in trying to bring out the dominant theme in this story. These literary devices comprise of flashbacks, person vs person conflict and point of view. The author uses the three literary devices not only to bring out the theme in the story but to communicate to the reader of the story about the message he intends to impart on the reader. The literary devices also make the story stand out as unique and be able to attract the reader’s attention as well as convince the reader to continue reading the story by appealing to his/her senses for example flashbacks which appeals to the reader’s memory.


Raymond Carver’s story “Cathedral” is a culmination of a lot of flashbacks of what transpired between the narrator’s wife and Robert (the blind man). The author uses flashbacks to reflect on how the two could share life secrets and even send tape recordings to one another. The narrator’s wife as a character in the story is used by the author to develop the use of flashbacks in his story which clearly makes the story interesting as through flashbacks we get to understand the developments in the story more. An example of the quotes that depict the use of flashback include this phrase that the narrator is made aware of the tapes that his wife and the blind man used to send to one another “On another tape, she told him about her divorce” (1.5). Flashbacks are employed by the narrator in his quest to communicate the theme of acceptance.

Thesis statement: Accepting who we are is a virtue that helps us to not only live happier lives but also develop a high self-esteem in ourselves. People are born and brought up differently and therefore we should learn to accept ourselves and also accept the way others are as well.

Person vs Person Conflict

The author uses the narrator specifically to give an account of our one’s “self” can be at conflict. The narrator is obviously jealous of the relationship that Robert and his wife had though he does not want to appear to be bothered by it as his wife narrates to him her earlier experiences with the blind man. His in-fighting within himself is clearly seen by the way she responds to his wife when she is narrating her encounter with the blind man. One other instance of person vs person conflict as a literary device artistically used by the author is how blinded the narrator was by the way he viewed the world negatively yet ironically a physically blind man could outshine him in terms of his perspective of the work. The person vs person conflict here is that the author does not accept the fact that the blind man has he calls Robert is smarter than him which is seen partially in the way he admits the blind man’s smartness though ironically as seen in this quote “He found my hand, the hand with the pen. He closed his hand over my hand” (3.30). This quotes shows how the narrator agrees to Robert’s blindness though deep inside his heart he is bitter how the blind man is smarter than him. The author uses this literary device to depict how the narrator found it had to accept his inner blindness to reality and therefore this conforms to the story’s theme of acceptance.

Point of View

The story is written from a first person point of view with the narrator narrating the ordeals that basically transpired in his house. The narrator gives an account of himself and through his eyes we are able to understand the author’s intended message. It also through this literary device that we get a deeper understanding of the theme of acceptance that the story revolves around. The following quote portrays how the first person point of view is used to reflect on the theme of acceptance “Then I said, "I'm glad for the company”

(2.28). This shows the narrator’s acceptance that Robert made good company and that he liked his company.


Acceptance begins with understanding and appreciating your own self first before even appreciating others. As seen in Raymond Carver’s story, acceptance of one self is important in not only developing one’s self esteem with others but also in influencing the way we relate with others. Accepting who we are and that we are different from others in one way or the other is key in living a happy better life.

November 24, 2023



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