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by Raymond Carver

Cathedral Theme of Drugs and Alcohol

In "Cathedral" there are about 22 drinks consumed by the three main characters over the course of an evening. Plus, the three have no problem adding marijuana to the mix. As we discuss in "Genre" stories with postmodern elements sometimes resist making value judgments. "Cathedral" presents both positive and negative possibilities in terms of drinking and marijuana use. It's clear that at least for the narrator, drinking and smoking are nightly habits that are symptoms of and contributors to his dissatisfaction. Yet, the drinking and smoking seem to break the ice between Robert and the narrator. Also, the drinking and the smoking arguably lead to the amazing cathedral-drawing, which is depicted as a highly positive experience for both men.

Questions About Drugs and Alcohol

  1. Will the experience shared by Robert and the narrator still be valuable after the high is gone? Will they still connect when they are sober?
  2. Are there moments in the story where alcohol or drugs are shown positively? Negatively? Provide some examples and explain.
  3. Carver is often compared to Hemingway and both authors have lots of drinking in their stories. If you've read The Sun Also Rises or A Farewell to Arms compare and contrast the treatment of alcohol in those stories with the treatment in "Cathedral."

Chew on This

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

"Cathedral" presents both positive and negative possibilities in terms of drinking and marijuana use.

The connection Robert and the narrator form isn't simply a result of their intoxication, and they will likely still connect in the future.

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