As I read Raymond Carver’s Cathedral I wondered if I was projecting my own emotions onto each character. The narration is dry and unemotional, characters’ actions are described like a scientific procedure. At time I found myself smiling at the humorous and sarcastic nature of the narration. By the end of the story I was laughing at the interraction between the husband and wife, especially when they were conversing with the blind man: “Finally, when I thought he was beginning to run down, I got up and turned on the TV. My wife looked at me with irritation. She was heading toward a boil. Then she looked at the blind man and said, ‘Robert do you have a TV?'” (2738).
I also felt that Carver was critiquing various aspects of society in the mid to late 1900s. For example, the continuous growth of technology (2742), drug use (2738-9), stereotypes of the blind (2736), negative view of interracial marraige (2735), disregard for poetry (2734), art, and (2737) religion (2741).
I think that Cathedral most strongly alludes to the way we stereotype and how we view religion. For example, on page 2737 the husband offers to pray before dinner, which throws his wife off, but instead of speaking to God he says, “Pray the phone won’t ring and the food doesn’t get cold.” Is Carver trying to tell us that many members of society only care about the here and now, or that we can’t see beyond our present concerns?
The stereotyping in the story comes mostly from the husband, but also from the wife. They wonder about why a blind man would want to smoke if he can’t see the smoke he exhales, they catch themselves asking Robert if he would like to do something that requires vision, like watch television. What do you think Carver was trying to tell us about how we use stereotypes? Do they serve to blind us from truly seeing a person beyond their surface appearances?
There is quite a bit of repetition of phrases. For example, the blind man is described to be doing things with his beard throughout the story: “He lifted his beard and he let it fall” (2740), “As he listened to me, he was running his fingers through his beard” (2741). Is it significant that the blind man has a beard, and why does the narrator describe what he does with it?
I thought the narration was especially effective in emphasizing the impatience of the characters in getting an answer from each other: “‘Your bed is made up when you feel like going to be, Robert. I know you must have had a long day. When you’re ready to go to bed, say so.’ She pulled his arm. ‘Robert?'” (2739). It seemed to me that this was a critique of our impatience and desire, as a result of high speed technology, to have an immediate response from each other. Do you agree?
At the end of the story when Robert asks the husband to draw the Cathedral without looking, what do you think the husband learns?
Does the husband have some kind of revelation at the end of the story, is he freed from the boundaries of his home life?
Do you think the husband will open his eyes again?