Study Guide

Cathedral Marriage

By Raymond Carver


On another tape, she told him about her divorce. (1.5)

The narrator makes a point of telling us that his wife was married to another man before him, but he doesn't say a word about what he was doing before he met his wife. Is this significant? Why or why not?

"If you love me" she said, "you can do this for me. If you don't love me, okay. (1.7)

Ouch. The old ultimatum. The narrator's wife sounds a little manipulative here, but judging from the narrator's behavior, she has to be drastic to get any point across. The fact that she doubts his love in the first place is a big clue that the marriage is in trouble.

"Besides, […] goddamn it, his wife just died. Don't you understand that? The man's lost his wife!" (1.9)

We can see how important Robert is to her here, but there might also be something else going on. If her husband can't sympathize with a man who just lost his wife, does that mean he wouldn't care if his own wife died? Of course not, but if she's already feeling unloved, this might explain her strong reaction.

My wife took her eyes off the blind man and looked at me. I had the feeling she didn't like what she saw. (1.29)

The narrator seems very conscious of how he appears in his wife's eyes. Considering what he said about how sad it was the Beulah could see how she looked in Robert's eyes, we can assume this is important to him. He's also contrasting the way she sees him with the way she sees Robert.

I wished she'd come back downstairs. I didn't want to be left alone with the blind man. (2.1)

We thought the narrator might have been getting better, but then he comes with this line. Do you think he really means this, or is he just being silly about, admitting that he likes to be around his wife, and he misses her when she's not around.

My wife and I hardly ever went to bed at the same time. (2.29)

Perfectly happy couples can go to bed at different times every night. But, the narrator mentions this in a fairly desperate tone, when he's just admitted he's happy for Robert's company. As such, it lends to our understanding that his marriage has problems beyond what we see on this night.