College Essay Examples

Character Analysis- ‘Cathedral’


The ‘cathedral’ is Raymond Carver’s writing collection narrated by an anonymous middle-aged man, the protagonist. Through an internal soliloquy, the narrator demonstrates that he is insensitive and has a cynical personality, mainly how he reacts to his wife’s poetry, how he alludes to the blind man, and how he empathizes with the deceased wife of Robert. The narrator states, “A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to” (269). Further, he comments about the deceased spouse, “Beulah! That’s a name for a colored woman” (271).  He displays cynicism by how he is doubtful about the sincerity and motives of Robert and his significant other’s relationship; the narrator is anti-social and depends on movies and TV to define his social and moral surroundings. “In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed. Sometimes they were led by seeing-eye dogs”, he adds “Robert’s blindness ‘bothered me,’” and “he was no one I knew” (269). He is envious of his wife’s ex-husband to a point he cannot mention his name, “Her officer—why should he have a name? he was the childhood sweetheart, and what more does he want?” (211) and mainly shows jealousy for the attachment flanked by Robert and his spouse.

Just as other cynics, the speaker seems irritating, scornful, and demoralizing, but he ends up suffering more from the effects of his attitude. Evidently, the narrator misses out on essential elements of life like making friends and being intimately in love with his wife. Instead, the narrator seems so disconnected from his life. From his description of Robert, the narrator makes his wife irritated “My wife looked at me with irritation. She was heading toward a boil” (218). He misses out on having an intimate relationship with his wife, something that makes him fail to understand the co-existing bond shared by Robert and his companion, “And then I found myself thinking what a pitiful life this woman must have led. Imagine a woman who could never see herself as she was seen in the eyes of her loved one” (213). He never concedes his envy of Robert, dependent on the previous attachment between Robert and Beulah resoundingly.

 He is pompous of his wife and talks about her extraordinary, passionate encounters with a specific shallowness. Moreover, he appears to be disdainful of her passion for poetry writing to the extent of not wanting to read it and his sentiments are demoralizing “I can remember I did not think much of the poem” “Next to writing a poem every year, I think it was her chief means of recreation” (210). His self-disconnection is all around, mirrored in the occurrence where he is listening to a recording sent to his wife and does not want to hear it anymore when his name Is mentioned: “From all you’ve said about him, I can only conclude— “But we were interrupted, a knock at the door, something, and we didn’t ever get back to the tape” (212). The constant use of drugs, especially at night and apparent liquor misuse, is a simple approach to understanding this.

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The cynical personality makes the narrator indulge in complacent insolences and framing assumptions that people ought to act in a specific way. The feeling of detachment aids in showing his adamant narrow-mindedness, generally seen in his sentiments and pre-imagined thoughts about impaired visually. He deliberates that blind people do not grow beards and are not smokers” I remembered having read somewhere that the blind did not smoke because, as speculation had it, they couldn’t see the smoke they exhaled (217)”. He believes no one would attend a blind man’s wedding when he states, “who’d want to go to such a wedding in the first place (213)”. The narrator has sympathy and highly indifferent insolence concerning Beulah’s marriage to Robert, “and then I found myself thinking what a pitiful life this woman must have led. Imagine a woman who could never see herself as she was seen in the eyes of her loved one” (213). 

There is an intriguing part when he is listening to his spouse and Robert converse about the previous decade when they were apart. The narrator states, “They talked of things that had happened to them—to them! —these past ten years (218)”. As if he is infuriated about being dismissed, although he avoids replying to questions asked by Robert and seeks solace in the TV, or proposes that they are living more enjoyable lives that he fails to understand, explains his detached feeling. As he opens up to Robert afterward in the narrative, “I guess I don’t believe in it. In anything (225)”. He possesses no linking with everything more significant or more modest than himself. His character corresponds with the hypothesis that skeptics are only disillusioned optimists. Rather than changing or compromising, the narrator tries to go to war with the idea that his wife seems happy around the blind man. The narrator employs his cynicism as a defense and a weapon.


As the story concludes, Robert’s influence on the narrator is evident; he seems to start changing his attitude and admits he would enjoy some more company from Robert. Before they even start drawing the cathedral, the narrator seems to marvel at how the blind man perceived things, arousing a sensation of obligation to discover the confines of Robert’s vision. He attempts to assist Robert to envisage the cathedral by making an effort to describe what he saw on Tv, but he fails, something that made him want to retreat to cynicism, “The truth is, cathedrals don’t mean anything special to me. Nothing. Cathedrals. They’re something to look at on late-night TV (226)” he said. Ultimately, his eyes closed and not focusing on the drawing he had drawn, the narrator focuses on something he cannot grasp, and he feels relieved “I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything (228).”For the first time the narrator seems to find meaning in something he has done.


Work cited

Carver, Raymond. Cathedral. Vintage, 2015.


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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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