Cathedral by Raymond Carver Book Review
Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” is a story of a man who lacks the ability to see beyond the outer appearance of things until Robert, the former and blind employer of his wife, teaches him to do so. As Robert helps the man to perceive things from his perspective by making him draw a cathedral while closing his eyes, it is here when a lesson is learned that true vision and connection rely on more than what the eyes may see. In “Cathedral,” Carver uses the audiotapes to symbolize how individuals can connect and communicate with one another and the cathedral to reflect the power of seeing the meaning that something holds, rather than what it physically represents.
The tapes reciprocated between Robert and the narrator’s wife are a symbol of the relationship and contact that may be formed between people. After reconnecting with each other, Robert and the narrator’s wife began sending tapes about their lives to one another to keep them up to date. The narrator’s wife would put personal information on these tapes like how “she loved her husband but she didn’t like it where they lived and she didn’t like it that he was a part of the military-industrial thing” (Carver 29). Over time, additional tapes were sent back and forth between the blind man and the narrator’s wife with even more details about her life, demonstrating how they were able to communicate with each other through the tapes and strengthen their connection with the other’s life. Furthermore, the tapes came together to illustrate how communication can forge a bond.
Moreover, towards the story’s end, the narrator and the blind man draw a cathedral together which comes to be a symbol of how being capable of seeing past the surface of things can enable one to realize the true meaning within them. As the narrator tries to describe a cathedral seen on television to Robert, he finds himself having a hard time as a cathedral has no significance to him. As a result, Robert prompts the narrator to draw a cathedral with him to view it from his perspective, leading to the narrator adding more attributes to it as he is discovering something that is more than just a building. Robert instructs the narrator to close his eyes and keep drawing, but when he completes the drawing, his eyes remain close as he “was in [his] house. [He] knew that. But [he] didn’t feel like [he] was inside anything” (Carver 38). To explain, the drawing of a cathedral allowed the narrator to experience a new tie to the world, similar to the blind man. The feelings that the narrator felt from being able to look beyond the cathedral demonstrated how it enabled him to gain a deeper understanding and connection with what was surpassed visual.
In all, the tapes stood for communication and the bonds that it allows to be formed, and the cathedral represented the significance of being able to see the meaning that goes beyond what is present. Because the narrator did not realize the importance of communication and deep connections in the beginning, he saw the tapes as “harmless chitchat” (Carver 29). However, the narrator’s wife established a greater relation with Robert, as they were able to get a more sophisticated understanding of each other through the tapes as she and the blind man, unlike the narrator, knew that more lies beyond the surface. Though in the end, the narrator as he drew the cathedral and closed his eyes, came to discover a new connection in his own life that went further than what the eyes could perceive. Overall, the symbolism in the tapes and cathedral come together to illustrate the main theme that there are various ways and extents to which a connection can form.