This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, themes and message.

Presentation of the text

Title: “Cathedral”
Author: Raymond Carver
Published in: Cathedral (collection)
Date of Publication: 1981
Genre: Short Story

Raymond Carver (1938-1988) was an American author who wrote short stories and poems. Today, he is considered an important figure in American literature, one of the most important representatives of the literary movement called Dirty Realism. His works approach themes connected to relationships but also minimal themes like envy, jealousy, petty behaviors, etc.


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The theme of relationships is explored through marriage and friendship. The narrator presents his wife’s former marriage and her friendship with Robert, at the same time that readers get to see the narrator’s present interactions with his wife.

Marriage is presented as conducive to dissatisfaction. The former marriage of the narrator’s wife was based on love, but it gradually fell apart because of the husband’s job which did not allow her to build stable relationships with other people (they were constantly on the move). The woman began to feel lonely and tried killing herself with pills and alcohol. Here, the motif of drinking marks the end of a stage in the woman’s life.

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