Summary and structure

Here, we will present you the summary and structure of “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver.

Summary

A married couple is expecting the visit of the wife’s friend, a blind man. The wife met the blind man, named Robert, ten years ago, while working for him during a summer. Since then, she has married an Air Force officer, divorced him and remarried the narrator. Throughout everything, the woman kept in touch with Robert, corresponding via audio tapes. Now Robert is visiting the narrator and his wife, following the death of his own wife.

The narrator is bothered by Robert’s visit but tries to be polite to the blind man. The couple and Robert have dinner and several drinks. The woman and Robert do most of the talking, while the narrator only observes them. When his wife goes up to change her clothes, the narrator offers Robert marijuana. When the wife sees them smoking, she is upset, but she joins them eventually. The woman falls asleep, and the two men stay up chatting and watching a TV program about cathedrals. The narrator describes the images shown on TV to Robert, but when he tries to describe a cathedral to the blind man, he finds himself unable to do it. Robert proposes that the two of them try to draw a cathedral together. As they draw, the narrator closes his eyes and finally begins to see without looking and to understand what it's like to be blind.

Structure

The short story is structured around a single event in the characters’ life – a visit by the narrator’s wife’s blind friend to the couple's home. The story is structured as a first-person account. It lacks a traditional plot line and has a zero-ending (which does not look like an ending or a resolution).

Title

The title of the short story, “Cathedral”, suggests the story might have a religious theme or that the events take place in a cathedral. However, in Carver’s short story, the cathedral functions...

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