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by Raymond Carver

Cathedral Theme of Dissatisfaction

"Cathedral" shows a distinct movement from dissatisfaction to satisfaction. The unnamed man who narrates the story oozes dissatisfaction from every pore at the very beginning. We can see that he probably loves his wife, but that the marriage is far from happy and healthy. His most immediate reason for dissatisfaction is the impending arrival of his wife's ex-boss and long time friend. His movement from dissatisfaction to satisfaction is most pronounced because the story is told through his eyes, but the other main characters undergo similar movements. The end of the story doesn't guarantee lasting satisfaction, but it does offer hope of happiness and meaningful connections to other people through creativity and broad vision.

Questions About Dissatisfaction

  1. Assuming the narrator is dissatisfied, what are the major causes?
  2. Is the narrator's wife dissatisfied with the narrator? Why or why not? What evidence supports your answer?
  3. Do alcohol and or drugs factor into any of the characters' dissatisfaction? Why or why not?
  4. Are all of the characters satisfied at the end of story? Are there moments of satisfaction before the ending?
  5. Will the woman be satisfied that the narrator has done his best to make Robert feel comfortable?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"Cathedral" argues that intimate friendships can make the small dissatisfactions in life more tolerable.

It's likely that the narrator will return to his state of dissatisfaction after the initial excitement of his renewed vision has faded.

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