Analysis of the story, “Cathedral” Thesis

The use of first person narration by the Raymond Carver in the story,
“Cathedral,” successfully presents his intentions in
characterization and themes. It is through the narrator that the story
finds its foundation meaning and plot. Additionally, simple
characterization in the story is effective in addressing the main themes
of the story. Moreover, the characterization prevents distracting the
reader and effectively captures him to the character and experience of
the story’s nameless narrator.
Topic Sentence I: Narrating the story in first person is powerful and
effective in the presentation of the story’s plot, characterization
and themes.
First response to the topic sentence
Through the first person narration, the reader comprehends the elements
of the main character as described by the author in order to understand
the lessons learnt.
Understanding the points of view of a narrator is the main point of
analysis that Raymond Carver adopts in drawing lessons from the story
(Howe, 1). From his own writing, he learns lessons by describing the
point of view of the author in relation to the context the story is
based on. In addition to the context, the author draws lessons from his
own writing by comparing the time he read the story and the current time
he is writing the response to the story (Anderson 12). This way, Raymond
makes sure that his response contains lessons he can directly draw
directly from both his writing and from the story.
Second response to the topic sentence
The story presents the character of the narrator in a perspective that
the reader has to understand especially when reflecting on his conduct.
In particular, the author ensures that the story is presented with a
narrator’s point of view which makes the reader identify with the
character of the narrator. To ensure the flow of the lessons, the author
ensures that the reader becomes part of the story as the reader
consistently tends to become the narrator. This explains why at no one
time in the story, the author does not disclose the name of the
narrator. In addition, the author ensures that the narrator identifies
as a friend to Robert and a husband so as to create intimacy between the
main characters and the reader.
Third response to the topic sentence
In line with the thesis, the author achieves most of his literary
targets by leaving the narrator of the story, unnamed rather than
presenting the name behind the personality of the narrator.
The story is narrated by the unnamed man who interacts with the wife as
the major character with others being supporting characters. First, the
story presents only it is the characters that present the themes that
the author wants them drawn from the story. In addition, the simple
plotting suits the themes and the development of the story. This is
because short stories tend to present messages and themes more
effectively if they are presented in the most simplistic way. Not only
does the plotting simplicity make it easier for the reader to
understand, it also makes it interesting for the readers to follow the
Topic Sentence II: the author has succeeded to appropriately use
characterization to presenting the story.
First response to the topic sentence
Like in most of his stories, the characterization adopted by the author
is simple and appropriate for the themes and plot that he intends to
present to the reader (Howe, 1).
The first element of characterization reflects on the unnamed character
who is the narrator, an element that makes the whole story come true. He
describes his experience with all other characters and the reader comes
to know all of them through the eye of the unnamed narrator. This
knowledge is what is reflected in the mind of the reader who
significantly takes the narrators point of view. The point of view of
the narrator is what presents the lessons and traits that can be drawn
from the other characters by the reader (Anderson 14).
Second response to the topic sentence
It is through Robert’s actions that the reader learns of the need to
play a role in the society despite their situation.
Robert is the blind person who is immediately introduced by the narrator
as the story begins as he visits the narrator (Carver 224). We learn of
his friendly nature through his visit to the narrator after the passing
on of his wife. Robert is presented as an encouraging character, not
only from the perspective of a friend, but also spiritual perspective as
he advises the narrator The fact that Robert is blind effectively shows
how each member of the society can take part in understanding other
people’s concerns and situations through such visits.
Third response to the topic sentence
The author successifully presents family lessons in another nameless
character in the personality of the narrator’s wife.
She is friendly as she keeps contact with Robert for ten years since
they met (Carver 223). Her character of marrying two men now and keeping
a distance with another man, however, puts a question to her character
despite being unnamed. It is through such instances like her trying to
kill herself that the reader is exposed to learn about the need for a
person to respect the institution of marriage and relationships (Carver
225). No matter how the reader may aloud narrator’s wife for her
friendship to Robert, it is worth questioning why her marriage to a
military officer ended. It is also questionable why she invites Robert
to her home just after his wife had died and not other time in their
life time.
Topic Sentence II: The author succeeds in introducing critical themes
and lessons for a family and the society through the simple
characterization rather than introducing themes directly.
First response to the topic sentence
The author successfully presents his main message and theme of the
story the distinction between seeing and looking at.
From the story, it is clear for a keen reader that the narrator
represents a person who just states on issues and life from a bare
perspective and not a more comprehensive angle. He is married to a wife
he does not share with and does not even understand compared to how
Robert. It is interesting to note that he does not seem to perceive his
wife from a “seeing” angle. On the other hand, Robert is presented
to be representing the “seeing” aspect of life.
Second response to the topic sentence
Ability to see rather than the ability to look at is the most important
for a person.
Even though Robert is blind, he is able to understand the narrator’s
wife more than even the narrator, her husband. This point is made more
conscious of the fact that the Robert and the narrator’s wife have
been living away from each other for ten years since they met. Yet, they
have been communicating and understanding each other’s issues. It is
the exact opposite when comparing to the narrator because the only
interaction we learn about the couple leaves the narrator’s wife
annoyed. Therefore, despite his physical sight, the narrator cannot see,
but just look at the issues. For Robert, he cannot look but he can see.
This is one of the main elements of the story and may be the reason why
the author decided to give him a name leaving others nameless. Such a
literal aspect may also be translated as the main character of the story
as he carries the story’s main message.
Third response to the topic sentence
The author presents the story in a simple first person narrative and
succeeds in presenting the themes that he intended to illustrate to the
At first, the author introduces family life right at the beginning of
the story. The reader gets to know of the narrator’s marriage to the
wife as they welcome their visitors, Robert. This means that the family
is taken as the reception point of visitors and accomplices such as
friends as narrator’s wife invites Robert into her home with the
narrator (Carver 224). In addition, the author shows how family life and
marriage encounters end through the story. The reader learns of the end
of military officer’s marriage to the narrator’s wife. Moreover, the
reader learns another reason why marriage ends, which is the ultimate
separator of death as seen in Robert’s case.
The author of the story “Cathedral” successfully delivers his
message, themes and plot through a simple characterization that is
literary complete. This literary completeness presents a deliberate
theme by the author that physical elements may end up to be
insignificant in life if not backed up by a deeper understanding of
life. Through the three main characters, the author presents his message
by naming Robert who carries his main message while leaving the narrator
and his wife as subjects of the thematic story. This makes the story not
a strong reflection of the author’s intention of a first person
narration that not only makes the story meaningful but also complete.
Works Cited
Anderson, Robert. Elements of Literature:  Sixth Course Literature of
Britain Holt, Rinehart and
Winston, Inc.  1993. Print
Carver, Raymond. Where I`m Calling From: New and Selected Stories Random
House: Vintage
(New York) 1989. Print
Howe, Irving. Stories of Our Loneliness. Web, Accessed, February 14,