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Cathedral ()

There's something extraordinary about this story because it's apparently at least party autobiographical and the narrator (Carver?) is so unlikable. His wife (second wife) had been a caretaker for an older blind man and, at her insistence, he is coming to visit them. This triggers extended whingeing about how jealous the husband is, not just of the blind man but of any man who had been with the wife. Worse, he is repelled by even the idea of the man's handicap. He is unable to sympathize at all with the man's blindness. Then, when the wife goes upstairs to change after dinner, the husband coaxes the blind man into getting high with him. Strike three.

But then--and you should read the story if you don't want spoilers--events take a remarkable turn. The two men are watching a PBS program about cathedrals and our host realizes the blind man may have no idea what a cathedral looks like. he tries explaining, but words fail him. Then the blind man tells him to get a piece of heavy paper and a pen to draw a cathedral. He places his hand on the husband's and the two begin to draw while the wife dozes.
I took up the pen again, and he found my hand. I kept at it. I’m no artist. But I kept drawing just the same.

My wife opened up her eyes and gazed at us. She sat up on the sofa, her robe hanging open. She said, ‘What are you doing? Tell me, I want to know.’

I didn’t answer her.

The blind man said, ‘We’re drawing a cathedral. Me and him are working on it. Press hard,’ he said to me. ‘That’s right. That’s good,’ he said. ‘Sure. You got it, bub. I can tell. You didn’t think you could. But you can, can’t you? You’re cooking with gas now. You know what I’m saying? We’re going to really have us something here in a minute. How’s the old arm?’ he said. ‘Put some people in there now. What’s a cathedral without people?’

My wife said, ‘What’s going on? Robert, what are you doing? What’s going on?

‘It’s all right,’ he said to her. ‘Close your eyes now,’ the blind man said to me.

I did it. I closed them just like he said.

‘Are they closed?’ he said. ‘Don’t fudge.’

‘They’re closed,’ I said.

‘Keep them that way,’ he said. He said, ‘Don’t stop now. Draw.’

So we kept on with it. His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing else in my life up to now.

Then he said, ‘I think that’s it. I think you got it,’ he said. ‘Take a look. What do you think?’

But I had my eyes closed. I thought I’d keep them that way for a little longer. I thought it something I ought to do.

‘Well?’ he said. ‘Are you looking?’

My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything.

‘It’s really something,’ I said.
Carver ends the story there. We know something has changed for the husband, but he doesn't get tangled up trying to describe it with any precision. One would not want to bet on it, but there's at least the possibility that this epiphany could start him on the road to becoming a better man. At any rate, the cretin of the early pages is partially redeemed.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Short Stories
Raymond Carver Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Raymond Carver
    -PODCAST: Raymond Carver Podcast
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Raymond Carver (IMDB)
    -INDEX: Raymond Carver (The Atlantic)
    -INTERVIEW: Raymond Carver, The Art of Fiction No. 76 (Interviewed by Mona Simpson & Lewis Buzbee, ISSUE 88, SUMMER 1983, Paris Review)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Cathedral (short story collection)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Cathedral (short story)
    -SHORT STORY: Cathedral (Raymond Carver, February 1984, London Magazine)
    -SHORT STORY: Cathedral (Raymond Carver, SEPTEMBER 1981, The Atlantic)
    -VIDEO: "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver, as read by James Naughton
    -PODCAST: S1E1: “Cathedral” with Tess Gallagher (Michael Mills, January 13, 2022, Raymond Carver Podcast)
    -ESSAY: The Origin of Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral”: A SHORT MEMOIR (Tom Jenks)
    -ESSAY: The Theme Of Epiphany In Raymond Carver's Cathedral (Internet Public Library)
    -ESSAY: The Short Story – featuring Raymond Carver’s CATHEDRAL (Less than a Megabyte)
    -ESSAY: A Feminist Re-Vision of the Work of Interpretation in Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” (Eve Wiederhold, Raymond Carver Review)
    -ESSAY: My Critical Analysis of Raymond Carver’s Cathedral (amberdenise1987, November 20, 2013)
    -ESSAY: Weekend Short: Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral’ (LUTHER RAY ABEL, April 23, 2023, National Review)
    -ESSAY: Carver’s Ending of Cathedral: “It’s Really Something” (Sara McDaniel,JANUARY 25, 2013, Stories I read, Stories I tell )
    -ESSAY: Psychological Distance in Raymond Carver’s CATHEDRAL (POLLY ROSE PETERSON, 2012, The Explicator)
    -ESSAY: Insularity and self-enlargement in Raymond Carver's 'Cathedral.' (Kirk Nesset, Spring 1994, Essays in Literature)
    -ESSAY: Keeping the Reader in the House: American Minimalism, Literary Impressionism, and Raymond Carver's “Cathedral” (Robert C. Clark, Fall 2012, Journal of Modern Literature)
    -ESSAY: Raymond Carver, Male and Female Interventions in "Cathedral" (Samira Sasani, Theory and Practice in Language Studies) [PDF]
    -CHAPTER: 21 - Raymond Carver's Cathedral (Eugene Goodheart, 8/05/12, Pieces of Resistance)
    -ESSAY: Epiphanic Awakenings in Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" and Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" (Sadeq, Ala Eddin; Al-Badawi, Mohammed, June 2016, Advances in Language and Literary Studies)
    -ESSAY: The Importance of historical time period in Raymond Carver body of literature Research Paper (Ivy Panda)
    -VIDEO LECTURE: English Professor Explains Raymond Carver’s Story, “Cathedral” & The Drawing Analysis #dirtyrealism (Dr. Whitney Kosters, Oct 24, 2022)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Cathedral (CourseHero)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Cathedral (Vaia)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Cathedral (Friends of Words)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Cathedral (eNotes)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Cathedral (Grade Saver)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Cathedral (EduBirdie)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Cathedral (LitCharts)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Cathedral (Dr Oliver Tearle, Interesting Literature)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Cathedral (SparkNotes)
    -INTERVIEWS: Glimpses: Raymond Carver (Paris Review, SPRING 1991)
    -ESSAY: “Get in, get out. Don’t linger. Go on.”: Read Raymond Carver’s greatest writing advice. (Emily Temple, May 25, 2021, Lit Hub)
    -ARCHIVES: Raymond Carver (Lit Hub)
    -ARCHIVES: Raymond Carver (The Guardian)
    -ARCHIVES: Raymond Carver (Paris Review))
    -ARCHIVES: Raymond Carver (Internet Archives)
    -REVIEW: of Cathedral (short story) (SittingBee)
    -REVIEW: of Cathedral (story) (REBECCA MASCULL, Bookanista)
    -REVIEW: of Cathedral (story) (Noah Charney, New Haven Review)
    -REVIEW: of Cathedral (story) (Sajel Swartz, Odyssey)
    -REVIEW: of Cathedral (book) (I Would Rather Be Reading)
    -REVIEW: of Cathedral (book) (Book Lover’s Boudoir)
    -REVIEW: of Cathedral (book) (Short Story Station)

Book-related and General Links: