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What are some of the connecting themes in Raymond Carver's short stories "Cathedral,"...

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joeblogs | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted June 1, 2012 at 4:18 PM via web

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What are some of the connecting themes in Raymond Carver's short stories "Cathedral," "Fever" and "Where I'm Calling From"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 2, 2013 at 8:05 AM (Answer #1)

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Two of the most obvious themes that can be identified in these tales are the isolation of the main male protagonist and also the epiphany that each protagonist experiences at the end of the tale. Carver's short stories are replete with male figures who are somehow isolated and unable to connect to those around them. The narrator in "Cathedral" freely admits that he is unable to connect to his wife any more, and he seems to do everything he can to prevent developing any kind of relationship with Robert, the blind man who visits them. In the same way, the narrator in "Where I'm Calling From" is estranged from his wife and has not been in contact with his girlfriend, and in addition has no interest in hearing from her and finding out about the results of her medical tests. In "Fever," the protagonist, Carlyle, has been abandoned by his wife for another man and, at the beginning of the story, is only enjoying a superficial relationship with another woman. In all three stories, the main male protagonist is presented as being unable to connect with those around him.

However, by the end of the story, all three protagonists experience some form of epiphany or sudden realisation about themselves that is shown to benefit them. In "Fever," through his narration of the story of his relationship with his wife, Carlyle is able to find hope for the future and put his past behind him. In "Where I'm Calling From," the narrator's reminiscences of Jack London's fiction helps prompt him to determine to contact his wife and then his girlfriend and to reach out to somebody else. In "Cathedral," drawing a Cathedral with Robert's hands on top of his helps the narrator experience an epiphany that enlarges his view of the world:

So we kept on with it. His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing else in my life up to now.

Robert helps the narrator experience something completely different that in turn helps him to see his life differently, and this epiphany is shared in different ways by all of the characters in these short stories.

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