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Cathedral | Study Guide

Raymond Carver

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Cathedral | Quotes


A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to.


The narrator is blunt about expressing his prejudice against blind people. The pun that occurs between the words blind and looked foreshadows a coming connection between the narrator and the blind man.


She told me he touched his fingers to every part of her face.


The narrator's wife told him that, 10 years ago, on the last day she worked for Robert, he'd asked if he could touch her face. They'd become good friends, and she agreed. As the narrator recounts this incident, he displays jealousy regarding what he suggests might have been a sexual undercurrent to the interaction.


Next to writing a poem every year, ... it was her chief means of recreation.


The narrator describes the significance of his wife's audiotaped communication with Robert. His cynical, mocking tone demonstrates his dismissiveness of both her relationship with Robert and her poetry writing—the two means through which she shares her feelings.


'You don't have any friends,' she said.

Narrator's wife

The narrator tells his wife that because he doesn't have any blind friends, he won't ever inconvenience her by inviting a blind person for a visit. In reply, she pinpoints one major reason he is lonely and discontented.


He never even knew what she looked like ... . Pathetic.


The narrator, here characterizing Robert and Beulah's marriage, completely misses the point that their relationship went much deeper than physical appearance.


My wife finally ... looked at me ... she didn't like what she saw.


The narrator, perhaps really seeing his wife for the first time in years, voices a fear that his wife cares more for Robert than she cares for the narrator.


I waited in vain to hear my name on my wife's sweet lips.


Although the narrator's wife and Robert are catching up on important events in the last 10 years of their lives, it's significant that she doesn't consider meeting and marrying the narrator to be important events. The omission suggests the depth of isolation between the narrator and his wife.


My wife looked at me with irritation. She was heading toward a boil.


The narrator turns on the TV because the conversation seems to be slowing down. His wife's response suggests an irritation with the devices, technological and otherwise, the narrator employs to avoid real communication.


My wife and I hardly ever went to bed at the same time.


The narrator reveals the lack of physical, as well as emotional, intimacy in his marriage. This relationship contrasts with that of Robert and Beulah, who, through the 20-peso coin, remain connected even beyond death.


I had these dreams. Sometimes I'd wake up ... my heart going crazy.


The narrator describes one internal manifestation of his disconnectedness: frequent sleeplessness and nightmares. Although the surface of the narrator's life appears content, his inner turmoil tells the real story.


I'm always learning something. It won't hurt me to learn something tonight.


As a foil or contrast to the narrator, Robert's intellectual curiosity is evident when he assures the narrator he'll be interested in the TV documentary about cathedrals.


Put some people in there now. What's a cathedral without people?


Robert coaches the narrator as they draw a cathedral together, but the real lesson is one in communication. An uninhabited cathedral, like a home, is worthless. Importantly, habitation is not about physical presence, but about the relationships among the people. The narrator's home is physically but not emotionally inhabited.


I was in my house ... But I didn't feel like I was inside anything.


The narrator draws the cathedral with his eyes closed and with Robert's hand clasped over his. The experience of blindness and human touch yields for the narrator a transcendent feeling of freedom, perhaps from his own limited existence.

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