Cathedral

Cathedral
Overview
Main Characters
Themes
Set in a modest suburban home in the 1970s-80s, "Cathedral provides a look into a marriage that has fallen into a routine of drink, drugs, and avoidance of intimacy. When the wife's longtime friend and confidant—a man who is blind—visits, he causes jealousy and disrupts the prevailing mood in an unexpected way.
Beulah
Robert's recently deceased wife
Air Force Officer
The wife's first husband
Robert
Outgoing, kind, and curious blind man; captures the narrator's interest and respect
The Narrator
Bored, cynical, and detached; jealous of wife's friendship with the blind man
The Wife
Sensitive, introspective, and kind; values friendship with blind man
Communicate
Taking time to connect fosters strong relationships; a lack of effort harms them.
Loneliness
Each character is coping with feelings of isolation, with varying degrees of success.
Friendship
A strong bond can mean the difference between hope and despair.
Numbering
Motifs
Author
10
Minimum number of drafts Carver wrote of each of his short stories
1984
Year Carver's short story collection Cathedral was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
18
Months it took Carver to write the stories in the collection Cathedral
1993
Year in which Robert Altman's film Short Cuts premiered, based on nine of Carver's stories and one poem
Technology
Audio tapes and the telephone help maintain a friendship; TV substitutes for interpersonal communication.
Drugs & Alcohol
The narrator and his wife drink alcohol and smoke cannabis to fill the void in their relationship.
RAYMOND CARVER 1938-88
Carver wrote about the people he knew best: ordinary Americans like his parents—people who are trudging through lives filled with broken dreams, failed relationships, alienation, alcoholism, and loneliness. "Cathedral," unlike many of his stories with ambiguous, bleak endings, offers a glimmer of hope for its characters.
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