Setting Characterization and Symbolism Explored in Carvers Cathedral

Length: 5 Pages 1128 Words

Moments of epiphany are rarely planned and even less expected but we always seemed to know when they arrive. The narrator in Raymond Carver's short story, "Cathedral," experiences such a life-changing epiphany late one night in his living room with the aid of a blind man. He learns there is much more to life than he once thought and there are many different ways to perceive it. Through the setting, characterization, and symbolism in the story, Carver emphasizes the significance of the narrator's epiphany. The characters and their relationships allow us to understand the narrator's true character. At the beginning of the story, the narrator is uneasy about Robert's staying in his home. He bluntly tells us that he "wasn't enthusiastic about his visit" (Carver 209) and, in addition to that, he admits that Robert's blindness bothers him. We also learn that the narrator's understanding of the blind is somewhat limited. For example, he says that his notions of blindness "came from the movies" (209) and he assumed that blind people "moved slowly and never laughed" (209). When he sees Robert, he is surprised that he has a beard and that he did not use a walking cane and did not wear dark glasses. He is also Continue...


When I did go to sleep, I had these dreams. His wife writes poetry and even wrote Robert a poem, which the narrator admits he "didn't think much of" (210). My wife and I hardly ever went to bed together at the same time. Without the obstacles, he would have never experienced his epiphany. The symbolism in "Cathedral" is also significant because it helps us realize the magnitude of the narrator's experience. The narrator allows Robert to understand cathedrals and Robert allows the narrator to understand blindness. In addition, as the night and the conversation go on, the narrator learns that Robert is a "regular blind jack-of-all-trades" (218). Also, when his wife goes upstairs to change clothes, the narrator is uncomfortable because he did not want to be "left alone with a blind man" (219). When the narrator becomes bored with the conversation and turns on the television, we are told that she becomes irritated and "headed toward a boil" (218). He becomes aware that a world exists outside of his living room through the act of drawing. This can be seen in the narrator's lack of concern about Robert's visit. To conclude, Carver utilizes the setting, characters, and symbolism in the story to stress the narrator's epiphany. In the end, the narrator overcomes the barriers presented by both obstacles and becomes more aware as an individual. Even when the narrator's wife wakes up while the two are drawing, the narrator does not answer her questions about what they are doing, Robert does. We can assume that the narrator realizes the significance of this change when he tells us, "Every night I smoked dope and stayed up as long as I could before I fell asleep.