This paper seeks to discuss and analyze the characters, characters’ changes, conflicts, style, foreshadowing, theme, climax, plot, and historic context in Cathedral by Raymond Carver. The essay develops the story setting, and provides details of the effects that can easily be learnt from the story.

Character Analysis

The narrator in this short story is unnamed. This short story begins with narration of the author. The line, “this man, an old friend of my wife’s, he was on his way to spend the night’’ is an announcement by the narrator that he is jealous of the friendship between his wife and the blind man. This statement also clearly shows that the narrator is not happy with his work and feels, like he has been isolated from the others. In fact, according to the narrator’s wife, the narrator had no friends at all. The narrator seems to be uncomfortable with the presence of the blind man, and feels insecure. On the other hand, the blind man is a kind and patient man. The blind man has just lost his wife, and is travelling to see his wife’s family. The attitude of the narrator does not affect the blind man. This is clearly brought out by the fact that even when the narrator is rude to him, he is still polite, outgoing, and pleasant. The character of the narrator’s wife is a very important part of this story, even though her name does not appear anywhere in the story. She is a very hardworking woman, and has worked in many different hard conditions. She used to be friends with the blind man earlier, and continued to be in touch with him over the years. This could be the reason why the narrator is not comfortable with the presence of the blind man.


The themes used in the story include the theme of loneliness and alienation. It is important to note that all the characters in the story have at one time or another experienced loneliness and alienation. The narrator is very jealous of his wife and unhappy in his everyday work. He is also alienated from other people. The narrator’s wife has also experienced the feelings of alienation and loneliness. In the line, “one night she got to feeling lonely, and cut off from people she kept loosing from that moving-around life’’. This line from the story clearly shows that though the narrator’s wife claims that she loved her husband, there were times that she experienced loneliness and alienation. The blind man has just lost his wife, and is travelling to his wife’s family. At that point, he is experiencing alienation and loneliness.

Cathedral is a unique story that has been written in a very unique way. This is because it is told from the narrator’s point of view. The reader knows that narrator is white skinned man of middle age; however, he remains unnamed throughout the story. The narration is not a direct narration; however, it is filled with spaces and gaps that the reader needs to fill in order to partially understand, or fully grasp the context of the story. It is also important to note that most of the information in the story is controlled by the narrator. The story provides a lot of clues based on the narrator’s personality. There are many other details that remain hidden by the narrator and from the narrator as well. These details include the fact that the narrator never mentions his love for his wife among many other details.

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Historical Context

Cathedral reflects a historic period, reflecting the diminishing expectations of the people. During this period, poverty was at a very high rate. A few people who were working at the time earned insufficient wages that could not change the poverty situation. The narrator’s wife met the blind man while looking for another job. Additionally, the blind man’s wife was initially working for the blind man before they got married.

Climax and Plot

The plot of this story starts with a fundamental set of details or ingredients. The plot starts with the initial situation, and the conflict is developed, and some complications are added. The story then develops to climax. It ends with a denouement, and a conclusion. In the initial stage, the blind man comes to visit the narrator’s wife. The conflict arises from the fact that the blind man has a history with the narrator’s wife. Additionally, another complication appears when the blind man arrives. His arrival causes the situation to become awkward. The suspense occurs late in the night. The question at this point is whether the narrator and the blind man find a way to actually communicate. The blind man is trying to find a way to describe a cathedral to the narrator. The denouement arises when the narrator’s wife opens her eyes and the narrator closes his (Kelby, 69). The conclusion of the story is very simple yet very intense. The narrator’s eyes are closed, and he still sees everything. The story does not state whether this feeling lasts or if it’s just a moment. The narrator experiences something strange at the end of the story, something that is simple yet rather complex at the same time.

Character Change & Conflict in the Story

The character element is very complicated in this short story. The narrator is an important part of the story but his name is left out in the story. On the other hand the blind man is not only described in the story but his full name is given. However, his characteristics can be likened to life’s frustrations. There are many conflicts in this story namely; external conflicts, internal conflicts, man vs. man conflicts, man vs. self conflicts among many others. Internal conflicts are conflicts that are within a person. These conflicts include desire, fate, and belief among many others. External conflicts are conflicts that are related to struggles against the world. Man vs. man conflicts are conflicts are a type of external conflicts. These conflicts include; physical, verbal and emotional conflicts which are evident in the story. On the other hand, men vs. self conflicts are a part of internal conflicts. This can be recognized in all the characters in the story.


Cathedral is a very easy for reading story, but rather sophisticated in nature; it keeps the reader engaged from the very beginning to the end. The essay touches on the story setting from the development of initial stage, the conflict, the complications, the climax, the denouement, and the conclusion. The author has used these attributes to make the story more interesting and captivating.

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