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    The Narrator’s First Person Point of View, Symbolism, and Theme in Cathedral, a Short Story by Raymond Carver

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    “He said, ‘Take a Look. What do you think?’ […] My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything. ‘It’s really something,” I said” (115). Stories captivate the minds of different readers at different points in life. Every author will make their story unique in which the reader will perceive it and apply it’s notions within their own life. Raymond Carver was able to captivate audiences through the decades with the short fiction “Cathedral” by using a modernized narrator’s first person point of view, symbolism, and theme.

    Carver, first, uses the narrator’s point of view to his advantage. When an audiences reads something, they want to feel as if they can put themselves in the story or relate to the characters in it. What Carver does is he makes the narrator describe his moment of interaction with the blind man, Robert, through his own opinions. “He was no one I knew. And his being blind bothered me.

    A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to.” (105) is an example of how Carver used the narrator’s personality to connect with readers. He was able to bring the story down to a level where readers did not have to search for a character’s feelings. He added societal prejudices that the narrator implied knowing about blind people, like how they do not smoke. “I thought I knew that much and that much only about blind people. This blind man smoked his cigarette down to the nubbin” (109) this shows how the narrator perceives others by societal descriptions and slowly shows a new, accepting change of perspective. Raymond Carver uses the narrator’s point of view as an essential to keep the audience reading.

    Another captivating tool Carver uses to keep the audience is his use of symbolism. All works within literature use symbolism that will connect with the theme of a story. The main one within “Cathedral” is in fact the cathedral. On page 113, the narrator and Robert get into a discussion about what a cathedral looks like. The narrator tries ever so hard to paint a picture, but falls short of a description. “I guess I don’t believe in it. In anything. Sometimes it’s hard.

    The truth is, cathedrals don’t mean anything special to me.” (114) explains that the narrator does not believe, therefore he cannot see. It is almost the same as asking someone who does not believe in, or practically despises, Santa Claus. The person will simply say they cannot describe him, for they do not believe in his existence because seeing him would prove his existence. The symbolism of the cathedral implies a deeper meaning which affects the readers. When asked to draw the cathedral, the narrator does so. Though, instead of just drawing a simple building, Robert has him explore his own inner thoughts.

    The narrator implies he does not see anything special about the cathedral until he begins to think upon what he is attempting to draw. Robert tells the narrator, “Put some people in there now. What’s a cathedral without people?” (115) in order to draw with a deeper perception of the cathedral. Adding this small detail of people made the realistic presence of the narrator’s piece of art. When told to keep his eyes closed at the finished product, the narrator states “I didn’t feel like I was inside anything” (115) as if he was in completely new, peaceful place. A cathedral is somewhere a person goes to hopefully find inner peace and having it in the story symbolizes the narrator become at peace open to himself. Having symbolism helps connect the story to the reader’s inner morals.

    Finally, Carver uses the theme to have the readers distinguish between their own prejudices. The main theme within the story is not simply happiness, or forgiving others. It is more about a person realizing the difference between looking at something and then actually seeing it. The narrator complains of how a blind man could never make a woman feel beautiful.

    “A woman who could go on day after day and never receive the smallest compliment from her beloved” (107) this is an example of the narrator using a prejudice. Within mere discussions of the narrator telling the readers his opinions, readers notice that the narrator basis his interaction with Robert upon prejudices he learns from society. When asked to draw the cathedral, the narrator only drew what he saw on TV. He put no effort into the drawing because he believed “cathedrals were nothing special” (114).

    Robert on the other hand, sees the potential in everything. He eagerly wants the narrator to draw the cathedral and add depth to it. What happens to this is when the narrator takes the time to do so he changes his way thinking. He no longer looks at the prejudices that he came when meeting Robert, but rather sees the potential of hope with Robert’s perspective. With the theme that Raymond Carver presents, readers can make a connection to the perspective of “seeing potential” in life as Robert did, that each generation who reads “Cathedral”, can relate to.

    In conclusion, Raymond Carver’s short fiction “Cathedral” is still being appreciated by readers today because of its modernized narration with first person point of view, symbolism, and theme. By using these thematic reasons, readers have the ability to continuously read this story and relate it to their own personal lives. Carver made inner connections with readers from a broad gap of different generations that allows his work to be still thriving. As readers, drawing our own cathedrals maybe the opening door to a perspective on how reality should be perceived.

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    The Narrator’s First Person Point of View, Symbolism, and Theme in Cathedral, a Short Story by Raymond Carver. (2022, Dec 10). Retrieved from

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