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Communication as an Important Factor in Strong Relationships on the Examples of the Stories 'Cathedral' and 'Say Yes'

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50 Cent said: “Now would you leave me if you found out I wasn’t thuggin? Do you believe me when I tell you, you the one I’ loving? Are you mad ‘cause I’m asking you 21 questions? Are you my soul mate?”. 50 Cent is asking his girlfriend if she would love him no matter how much money he has, what he looks like, or what kind of person he is. Would these things really matter to her or would they be irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Raymond Carver shares a similar concept in his short story ‘Cathedral’. Communication is an important factor in a strong, long-lasting relationship. After many years of marriage, the Narrator and his wife are faced with the harsh reality that they are not truly happy in their marriage, which puts their relationship in conflict with one another.

Marriage isn’t easy, and when a husband and wife do not agree, there can be lots of tension. Communication is the key to understanding and fixing the problems in a marriage, and fighting instead of talking things out can hurt the relationship. “‘…if you had a friend, any friend, and the friend came to visit, I’d make him feel comfortable…’. ‘You don’t have any friends’, she said. ‘Period’” (Carver, 34). The constant fighting and bickering are driving a wedge between the narrator and his wife. Not talking about how they feel and what is going on with each other is leaving room open for someone to swoop in and fill that void. “In time, she put all it all on a tape and sent the tape to the blind man. Over the years, she put all kinds of stuff on tapes and sent them off lickety-split”. The Narrator develops a prejudice for Robert and pokes fun at his disability to distract himself of his real feelings for what is going on in his marriage. He cannot understand that in light of everything else that has happened in their marriage, his wife is confiding in someone else. “She told him everything, or so it seemed to me”. The narrator is feeling insecure and wishes his wife would confine in him the way she does with Robert. A person’s demeanor towards someone else is important when in a relationship because it can set the whole tone of the situation. Her constant need to talk to Robert year after year on these tapes is pushing the narrator to feel insecure with himself and their relationship. What she does not see is that confining is someone who is not her husband is causing them to fight and is possibly the reason for their falling out.

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In Tobias Wolf’s ‘Say Yes’, Ann and her husband share a similar disconnects in their marriage. After thirty years of marriage, Anne is faced with the question: ‘Does he still love me?’. “The whole question is ridiculous. If you had been black, we probably wouldn’t even have met” (Wolf, 874). Ann’s husband is reflecting on the fact that propinquity plays a role in who we marry or fall in love with; therefore, if Ann were black, they would have lived in different neighborhoods and attended different schools. In his mind there is no scenario where they could possibly fall in love since their paths probably would have never crossed. Ann’s husband is convinced, and quite confident, that he knows her very well. What he doesn’t realize is that his wife of 30 years is not the woman he claims to know. “He glanced over at her. She was watching him and her eyes were bright. ‘Look’, he said taking a reasonable tone, ‘this is stupid. If you were black, you wouldn’t be you’” (874). A person’s tone is important when trying to convince or reason with them about something that they are disagreeing about. Ann’s husband does not see the disconnection in his relationship with his wife and doesn’t see what she is really asking of him. The only thing Ann’s husband can see is the color of her skin and how it makes a difference about the person she is inside. Her being black would make it impossible for her to be the woman he fell in love with. “‘A person from their culture and a person from our culture could never really know each other’. ‘Like you know me?’, his wife asked. ‘Yes. Like I know you’” (873). Positive about the way he feels about Ann, he is able to say this without hesitation. His confidence fogs his ability to see what Ann is really asking him.

Ultimately, both the narrator and Ann’s husband come to the realization that they were wrong about the way they things were handled. For Ann’s husband, what started out as an innocent question became an avalanche of bad feelings and conflict between the two of them. “He felt, ashamed that he had let his wife get him into a fight. In another thirty years or so they would both be dead. What would all that stuff matter then. He thought of the years they had spent together, and how close they were, and how well they knew each other, and his throat tightened so that he could hardly breathe” (875). Ann’s husband is coming to the realization that he was wrong in saying what he did. He realizes that he just told his wife that it does not matter who she is, or that he loves her, if the color of her skin is not white. He then begins to see that he has hurt his wife with his strong and careless words. When people are passionate about their feelings, they sometimes get caught up in the fight, rather than thinking about the ultimate goal. “My wife said, ‘What’s going on? Robert, what are you doing? What’s going on?’. ‘It’s all right’, he said to her” (Carver, 42). The Narrators wife in ‘Cathedral’ cannot understand how her husband and Robert are getting along. She is so caught up in keeping her husband from Robert because of his negativity that she is failing to see the benefits in the two of them getting along. With the two of them getting along, it leaves room for her husband’s insecurities to diminish and allow him to see who Robert really is. “‘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….’Well?’, he said. ‘Are you looking?’…My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But it didn’t feel like I was inside anything. ‘It’s really something’, I said” (42). The narrator has discovered what it feels like to be blind. Everything negative that was said about Robert and people who are blind was proven to be the furthest thing from the truth. Drawing the cathedral gave the narrator a chance to really get to know him as a person and not his title. He was able to see and feel things from Robert’s perspective and come to the realization that he was wrong. Even though the narrator’s opinion of Robert has changed, there is still the matter of making sure that with his new found feelings towards how he sees things, that he will talk to his wife about his insecurities in their marriage.

Although both couples may regret having said and done the things, they did due to their difference of opinions, it was a key element in improving their relationship. Both husbands are forced to reflect on themselves and their feelings for their wives. Communication has proven a key element in both of these stories and shows that in order to make a long-lasting loving relationship work both partners cannot be afraid to say what they think or feel, but to always consider the others feelings.

Works Cited

  1. Carver, Raymond. “Cathedral”. The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Kelley J. Mays. Shorter 11th ed. New York:New York, 2013.32-42. Print.
  2. Wolf, Tobias, “Say Yes”. The Story and Its Writer. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 8th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. 873-876. Print.
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Communication as an Important Factor in Strong Relationships on the Examples of the Stories ‘Cathedral’ and ‘Say Yes’. (2023, September 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
“Communication as an Important Factor in Strong Relationships on the Examples of the Stories ‘Cathedral’ and ‘Say Yes’.” Edubirdie, 08 Sept. 2023,
Communication as an Important Factor in Strong Relationships on the Examples of the Stories ‘Cathedral’ and ‘Say Yes’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Feb. 2024].
Communication as an Important Factor in Strong Relationships on the Examples of the Stories ‘Cathedral’ and ‘Say Yes’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Sept 08 [cited 2024 Feb 24]. Available from:
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