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by Raymond Carver

Cathedral Theme of Language and Communication

This is the theme in "Cathedral" that pulls everybody in. We all want to be better communicators. We all have trouble, at least from time to time, expressing ourselves, and understanding what those around us are trying to say. Ironically, miscommunication, misinterpretation, and difficulty of expression usually happen when we're trying to say important things. Sometimes we can't even express important things to ourselves, because we are confused. Even if we aren't, the other person might get defensive, or angry, or simply not understand. "Cathedral" suggests that if we get creative, and try to stand in each other's shoes, there is hope for positive and clear communication even in seemingly hopeless scenarios.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. What are some of the communication technologies used in the story? Would this story be different if it was set today, with current technologies?
  2. Is the woman a good communicator? How do you know? Does she share responsibility with the narrator for their communication breakdown?
  3. Could the narrator have described the cathedral to Robert if he were better with words? Why or why not? Besides drawing, and words, are there other ways the narrator could have described the cathedral? If so, what are they?

Chew on This

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

It isn't important that Robert has a better idea of a cathedral, only that the narrator tries to connect with him by sharing something he can see with Robert.

"Cathedral" emphasizes the importance of physical contact in communication.

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