Cathedral: a Short Story Penned by Raymond Carver That Represents Religion And the Essence of Faith

Cathedral is a short story penned by Raymond Carver which presents his dalliance with the minimalist work of fiction. The story embraces a simple language and narrative that the reader can enjoy and connect with. However, its underlying themes provide a significant critique of the modern day society. Through the characters in the story stereotypes and shallow beliefs are strongly advanced as key elements that hinder a man’s growth. Also, using the symbol of a cathedral, the aspect of conversion, faith, strength in individuals is highlighted as a continual yet interactive process.

The cathedral represents religion and the essence of faith. In the story, the narrator confesses that he does not hold any actual belief or ideology. His exchanges with the blind visitor are all full of sarcasm and misdemeanor towards his well-grounded nature. This is further highlighted in the manner the narrator fails in his explanation of how the cathedral looks. He lacks the perfect manner to describe it to the guest who is eager to know what it is since he is blind and could not view the TV as he would have wanted.

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In his hasty nature to humiliate the blind visitor, Bub asks “Something has occurred to me. Do you have any idea what a cathedral is? What they look like, that is? Do you follow me?”(Carver 245). The question triggers a conversation which exposes the narrator’s folly. The blind man reveals that he knows that those who built cathedrals didn’t live long enough.

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His prodding on the subject makes Bub confess that he was not particularly religious. He didn’t fully connect with the cathedrals as symbols of faith. He only viewed them on the TV with the intent of just passing the time. His limited thinking denotes that faith keeps one grounded and provides a sense of purpose.

The architecture of the cathedral denotes the commitment and belief of its founders. “The men who began their life’s work on them, they never lived to see the completion of their work… they are no different from the rest of us, right?’ the blind visitor cites (Carver 246). The statement somewhat challenges the narrator to review the commitment that might have been lacking in him to enhance his life. The narrator was shallow and petty in all his engagements with the visitor. His disinterest in intellectual conversations highlights his lack of tenacity in life or rather desire to hold firm in a meaningful direction as mirrored by the cathedral founders. In life, one must not strive to be average but rather optimize on his talents. This goes a long way in establishing that a cathedral is not only a religious shrine but a product of commitment and skill honed over time. Bub can borrow a leaf from the builders and the founders of the cathedral to focus on self-improvement. The self-improvement, in this case, incorporates emotional intelligence as well as the ability to absorb new learning experiences.

Conversion is a key element in the course of life. Through the narration, it is revealed that before the encounter with the blind man, the narrator was a shallow and insecure individual. His shallowness was exposed by the sentiments in regards to the blind visitor that his wife was in constant communication with. Bub was keen on making fun of the visitor due to his overreliance of prevailing stereotypes in regards to the blind. His wife’s request for him to be civil with the visitor is met by a rather shocking but embarrassing retort “I don’t have any blind friends” (Carver 236). The sentiment was insensitive and came from a shallow mindset. Corrections from his wife constantly countered his back and forth retorts. However, the blind man was the key instigator of the conversion of Bub. He maintained his cool even after receiving a cold welcome. Nevertheless, the interaction between the two as they drew the cathedral was enough to spark a connection. Bub acquired a newfound appreciation of his sight and also the blind man for being kind enough to help him do so. At first, Bub confesses ‘I drew a box that looked like my house” (Carver 247). This highlighted his anxiety and narrow creativity. However, he went on to transform the drawing into a Cathedral through the encouragement of the visitor. This in many ways mirrors the essence of a cathedral in a believer’s life. The cathedral is known to house clergymen and key personalities that guide individuals in the spiritual journey of illumination.

In conclusion, the cathedral is a powerful symbol which has a bearing on the narrator’s life. It is strong with a sound foundation but yet beautiful in a very artistic way. Craver used the symbol not only to create the mental picture of the narrative’s physical environment but also to denote other key attributes of individual characters. The cathedral in its splendor opens up its doors for all who seek spiritual nourishment. It does not limit those who visit it. Likewise, in the narrative, an individual ought to be open enough for new and meaningful experiences. The blind man opened Bub’s eyes to the reality of life and beauty self-confidence and faith. In life, one ought not to limit him or herself due to self-doubt. It is incumbent on an individual to be tolerant and yearn to learn just like the visitor taught to Bub to do. The strength that lies within can fuel individual growth and faith.

Work Cited

Carver, Raymond. Cathedral. Vintage, 2009.

Cite this page

Cathedral: a Short Story Penned by Raymond Carver That Represents Religion And the Essence of Faith. (2022, Apr 06). Retrieved from

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