Themes and message

The main themes of the short story “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver are perception (looking versus seeing and listening) and relationships (marriage and friendship). These themes are enhanced through motifs like drinking, dissatisfaction, and communication.

Table of contents

Perception

The theme of perception is explored in the short story by illustrating the difference between looking (using one’s eyes to observe things) and seeing (understating things through instruments other than eyesight—listening, touching, and drawing).

In the story, the narrator is a man who cannot understand the blind. Because he relies on the observations he makes through sight, he assumes being blind is a burden and deprives both the blind person and those around them of important aspects of life. He assumes Robert’s marriage with Beulah was marked by dissatisfaction because of his disability: “Imagine a woman who could never see herself as she was seen in the eyes of her loved one. A woman who could go on day after day and never receive the smallest compliment from her beloved.”

Furthermore, the narrator is surprised by Robert not wearing dark glasses and by him being able to smoke and eat by himself without any challenges. In the story, the narrator relies on sight and languag...

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