Although many critics have written numerous accounts of Richard Carver’s "Cathedral" as being about revelation and overcoming prejudice, they have overlooked a very significant aspect: the unfolding of marital drama. The story tells of how a close outside friendship can threaten marriage by provoking insecurities, creating feelings of invasion of privacy, and aggravating communication barriers.
The close outside friendship between the narrator’s wife and Robert, the blind man, provokes the narrator’s insecurities. This friendship has lasted for ten long years. During those years, they have exchanged countless voice tapes wherein they both tell each other what has happened in their respective lives. Because of this, the narrator feels that his wife has told Robert more than Robert needs to know. The narrator laments, "she told him everything or so it seemed to me" (1054). The narrator’s fear is somehow confirmed when Robert arrives and says that he feels like they have already met (1055). The narrator is left wondering what his wife has disclosed. This murky situation leaves the narrator feeling insecure, especially when he sees the warm interaction between his wife and Robert.
The narrator’s insecurities unfold when it takes him almost five pages just to demonstrate how close the friendship is between his wife and Robert. It is as though he is justifying his irrational behavior or perhaps questioning if his wife could be secretly in love with Robert. The narrator assumes this because his wife only writes poems if something really important happens to her. He recalls that his wife never forgot that instant when Robert "touched his fingers to every part of her face...
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...m. Ed. Thomas Volteler. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989. 23-28.
Carver, Raymond. "Cathedral." The Harper Anthology of Fiction. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 1052-1062.
Eder, Richard. "Pain on the Face of Middle America." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Daniel G. Marowski. Detroit: Gale Research Publishing, Inc., 1986. 103.
Robinson, Marilynne. " Marriage and other Astonishing Bonds." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Roger Matuz. Detroit: Gale Publishing Inc., 1989. 276-278.
Weele, Michael Vander. "Raymond Carver and the language of Desire." Short Story Criticism. Ed. Thomas Volteler. Detroit: Gale Publishing Inc., 1989. 36-41.
Yardley, Jonathan. " Raymond Carver’s American Dreamers." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Eds. Daniel Marowski and Roger Matuz. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1989. 63.
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