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Informative Build-Up of Raymond Carver’s 'Cathedral'

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People are part of a society where therapy would be necessary for emotional stability. The impact that therapy has on peoples’ emotional progress can pay-off their future. In Raymond Carver’s short story ‘Cathedral’, he dives into the significance of personal therapy sessions on people like the Narrator who have a difficult time expressing their feelings. People want to express the way they feel towards people they care about; however, there are things that make it difficult in doing so. Within ‘Cathedral’, the Narrator is trying to show affection towards his wife, but he is not displaying his actions accurately. Since Robert came into the picture, he feels that she adores his manners. The outcome caused by his inexpressible behavior towards both shows that he needs emotional help and seeks improvement for his own well-being. Carver utilizes ‘Cathedral’ to show an individual’s stability affecting the society positively in terms of the person using his survival to help victims. Through his characterization of the Narrator, Raymond Carver shows that in order for an individual to reach the highest of self-satisfaction, it is going to rely on putting effort to make the change in one’s behavior.

Carver demonstrates that one of the Narrator’s struggles with alternating his actions for becoming satisfied with himself is due to his lacking affection for his spouse. As the Narrator was spending personal time with his wife, she reads her poems with true intimacy and he would not give love in return. Instead of lending compliments on her work, he says: “I remember I didn’t think much of the poem. Of course, I didn’t tell her that. Maybe I just don’t understand poetry…” (Carver, 123). The author is explaining how the Narrator is not showing his devotion to his spouse and it can be seen through silence as well. In spite of him ignoring the memory about her reading the poems she wrote, this poem was supposed to be the bond that would make their connection stronger, yet it weakens their bond. According to Carver, the wife is trying to connect to him and he is choosing to forget about their connection than finding a way to build up. In order for the couple that is struggling with intimacy to connect, there has to be something that creates the chain. Therapy for emotional situations usually finds the way for people to connect to make the relationship bold. While therapy does not need to include a psychologist, the person who would be leading the session should be both of the partners, the wife and Narrator. Since they both know each other well, they could both succeed with their attempts. As the future progresses, the outcome of the Narrator’s and his wife’s efforts would become stable. The Narrator’s attempts to alternating his actions can only progress if he puts his steps his foot on.

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The major problem within making advancement in the behavior journey that Carver displays about the Narrator’s behavior towards his wife is that he is emotionally impaired. When the Narrator is discussing with his wife the subject of blindness, the wife brings up the man she worked for, Robert. Although Robert was a blind man, he had emotional love towards his wife unlike the Narrator. This moment shook the Narrator following his wife’s explanation that he came to a realization that he had to “imagine a woman who could go on day after day and never receive the smallest complement from her beloved. A woman whose husband could never read the expression on her face, be it misery or something better” (Carver, 125). Carver mentioned that the realization that the Narrator had was about the situation between himself and his wife, not about Robert and his wife. His own wife is the woman who “never receives the smallest complement” and the “husband could never read the expression on her face”. This in connection to Carver’s point in the statements is the saddening point in the story as for the Narrator, who is learning to figure out his own issue. Moreover, when he meets Robert, this could be his emotional therapy which could aid the progress in emotional affection. This is the therapy that affects people mostly when it is speaking to someone that went through the same issue, but alternatively. The survivor, Robert, can help the victim, Narrator, come out of misery, yet it needs to include effort between himself and his partner. While it will take time for the Narrator, his actions are developing anew through a long way.

Carver came to the conclusion that the Narrator succeeded in his journey with the help of Robert’s motivational talk to experience something he never had. As Robert spent personal time with the Narrator, they were watching a series discussing a cathedral. The documentary discussed the physicality of the building, but not the people’s connection to it. This documentary is similar to how the Narrator would interpret the way he loves his wife, but he is going a long way with the help from Robert. The moment that sparked the Narrator was when he was drawing a cathedral with Robert and he said: “Keep them that way. Don’t stop now. Draw” (Carver, 133). As stated by the author, these statements made by Robert to the Narrator ignited the light in his heart because he was focused into the drawing with Robert that he started to feel his deep emotions about the drawing. Although he is unable to explain the way he is feeling, he put himself in Robert’s shoes without realizing, since he was experiencing emotional affection through physical blindness. This experience made by the author for them has helped the Narrator meet a positive outcome to his life, including a balance between physical and emotional love. If there is not any harmony among people, then it is difficult to create the cooperation in the relationship. Despite his issue of affection, the Narrator came through a stumbling path to a smooth way in his conduct.

As indicated, Carver used the Narrator’s characterization to portray the direction to develop satisfaction by utilizing personal strength within shifting one’s behavior. If a person is striving to succeed in loving his or her partner, it will take personal effort to make it happen. It does not happen by assembling perfection, but it occurs through natural practices. Although love is not a simple feeling, it is a sensation that could be pleasurable that once it occurs, it spreads like an epidemic virus. As a matter of fact, the Narrator succeeded in his case without knowing the outcome between himself and his spouse. Since this situation displayed its cure from destruction, any part that is left out would mess the outcome in similar cases if this is not taken seriously. In order to build up from therapy, each behavioral adjustment is another brick placed over the relation.

Work Cited

  1. Carver, Raymond. ‘Cathedral’. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction, by Ann Charters, 3rd ed., Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003, pp. 123–133.
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Informative Build-Up of Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral’. (2023, September 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from
“Informative Build-Up of Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral’.” Edubirdie, 08 Sept. 2023,
Informative Build-Up of Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 Mar. 2024].
Informative Build-Up of Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Sept 08 [cited 2024 Mar 1]. Available from:
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