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by Raymond Carver

Cathedral Theme of Transformation

The events described in "Cathedral" take place on a single night, yet we see a variety of transformations. Some of these might seem fairly common – from sober to intoxicated, sleeping to waking, hungry to full, and the like. Something about Carver's simple prose helps us feel the importance of these seemingly small and usual changes. But "Cathedral" doesn't stop there. The night in question is a sort of crossroads for the three main characters. Before they come together for the evening, we know that someone or something has to change or someone is likely to get hurt. Fortunately, change does occur, and in a beautiful and unexpected way. By the end of the tale, all the characters will experience dramatic change, and even renewed vision. "Cathedral" explores the possibility of positive transformation through creative communication.

Questions About Transformation

  1. Who changes the most in the story? Who changes the least?
  2. Assuming the narrator is transformed at the end of the story, will his transformation last, or will it fade away in the morning?
  3. Has Beulah's death transformed Robert? If so how? Has it changed things for the narrator and his wife?
  4. Does the alcohol and/or marijuana transform the characters? If so, how can you tell? What are the effects?

Chew on This

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

The narrator and Robert are transformed by mutual kindness.

The woman's insistence that Robert be made to feel at home encourages the narrator to transform his outlook.

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