Characters and Plot in “Cathedral” by R. Carver

The narrator of Cathedral is an unnamed person. Still, this vagueness does not make him unimportant, as he influences the way the readers perceive the text. I associate him with an antihero and believe one to resemble a negative character because his behavior is indecent. As Cathedral refers to realism, the narrator seems to show the readers how the ordinary people looked like at that time. He is addicted to scotch and smoking, treats disabled people badly and cannot leave the job he does not like. However, we can see that there is something good in this person, as he “opens his eyes”. Observing the change that happens to the narrator, the readers can see that this story is positive. It proves that blindness can be not only physical condition and that it can be overcome. Our understanding of the events becomes more cautious, as being negative-minded regarding the narrator, we start reconsidering his words. However, we cannot get rid of his influence, as he provides us with lots of background information, without which we would not understand the text. It makes us dislike the things that do not appeal to him, etc.

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One more character from this story is the narrator’s wife. A great amount of the information about her we gain from her husband, as she sleeps during the majority of present events. The wife is a positive character, as she is kind and sincere. On the example of her relations with Robert, we see that she can manage long-time friendship even on distance. It is hard for her to communicate her emotions and needs, as she takes her anger out on the potatoes instead of talking to the narrator. Still, the woman has much in common with him including their feelings, habits, and blindness (to the husband’s jealousy, for example). However, the wife changes. She clearly explains what she wants her husband to do regarding Robert and also “wakes up” from a long-lasting sleep to find out something she did not know (the narrator finds a common language with her friend, starts to treat him with respect and enriches his worldview).

The events described in the story depict the time when the color television appeared and started to replace the black-and-white one, and when people commonly used cassette tapes. It can be understood from the narrator’s words when he describes the way his wife and Robert keep in touch and by the Robert’s words when he speaks about the TVs. The setting of the story is connected with the theme of blindness. Everything happens in the narrator’s house, and he seems to be limited to a particular vision. Still, when he closes his eyes, the situation alters. He says, “I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything” (Carver 13). Breaking through the walls of his house and vision, the man gets the understanding of the things that were inaccessible before and becomes free. The setting allows the readers to deepen into the issue and evaluate the things that the blind person perceives better in comparison with others.

I believe that the tension in this story is based on the people’s blindness. The very conflict occurs because of the relationship between the narrator’s wife and her blind friend. Then the problem focuses on the things people fail to observe, including each other’s needs and emotions. By the end of the story, this issue is resolved, as Robert “sees” the cathedral with the help of the narrator, who closes his eyes to see something more than the walls of his house, and his wife awakes to see all these changes. Thus, receiving the ability to see without eyes occurs to be the most significant event in this story. It makes the readers observe the situation when that the character’s perception changes. However, we cannot be sure that it will last for a long time and entail a range of changes such as the improvement of the relationships between the narrator and his wife. So the readers are left wondering what happens next.

I completely agree with the Poe’s words, as Cathedral does not describe some events that are to be read just for the public’s entertainment. It draws attention to the issue, which is always on the front burner. This story was written to make us reconsider our lives and become more open and sincere. The author refers to the lives of ordinary people in this text so that everyone can understand his message. The simple language used by Carver makes us believe the narrator and identify ourselves with him. The absence of the names and the description of the setting engage the readers’ imagination and make them anticipate future events. The author focuses on the feelings common for the modern people such as frustration and standoffishness. Thus, he shows that simple people from the working class are able to change their lives and experience something new, as he says “it was like nothing else in my life up to now” (Carver 13).

Work Cited

Carver, Raymond. Cathedral, 1981. PDF file. Web.

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"Characters and Plot in “Cathedral” by R. Carver." StudyCorgi, 19 Jan. 2021,

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StudyCorgi. "Characters and Plot in “Cathedral” by R. Carver." January 19, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Characters and Plot in “Cathedral” by R. Carver." January 19, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Characters and Plot in “Cathedral” by R. Carver'. 19 January.

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