Study Guide

Cathedral Dissatisfaction

By Raymond Carver


A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to. (1.1)

Yep, the very first paragraph of "Cathedral" ends on a note of dissatisfaction. This is setting the mood for the grumpiness to come.

[…] Where one night she got to feeling lonely and cut off from people she kept losing in that moving-around life. (1.4)

This line explains that the woman has been extremely dissatisfied in her past. It also tells us why. As the narrator's character unfolds we might suspect that "feeling lonely and cut off" are necessarily in her past.

She picked up a potato. I saw it hit the floor then roll under the stove. (1.12)

If that's not a sign of dissatisfaction, we don't know what is. She is clearly frustrated with her husband, probably for reasons beyond the way he's griping about Robert coming over.

How long had I been in my present position? (Three years.) Did I like my work? (I didn't.) Was I going to stay with it? (What were my options?) (1.45)

If we didn't have this passage, we wouldn't have a tangible reason for the narrator's dissatisfaction, other than the whole Robert thing. This makes him more human, and opens the reader to see him a little more sympathetically.

"It was like nothing in my life up to now" (3.45)

This sounds an awful lot like satisfaction to us. What we don't know is whether the feeling last beyond the moment. The big question is whether the narrator will be able to apply what he's learned to his real life. If he can, it will probably do a lot to improve his wife's satisfaction as well. Even if he can't, at least she'll see he's done all he can to make Robert comfy, and that's a good start.