Compare and contrast the use of point of view in Ernest Hemingway’s "Hills like White Elephants" and Raymond Carver’s "Cathedral."

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In Earnest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants," most of the text is written as dialogue between the characters. Hemingway relies on a third person objective point-of-view as a means of drawing the reader into the conversation. Most of the narration provides detailed descriptions of the setting. For example, the entire first paragraph of the text is rich with descriptions of the hills. The rest of the story, however, closes in on the dialogue between the two characters. By choosing to highlight the dialogue, Hemingway encourages the reader to focus on what is happening between the characters. The reader isn't given character descriptions or even names other than "the man" and "the girl." Because of this, the reader must pay close attention to understand what is happening in the story.

Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" takes a much different approach to point-of-view. Rather than drawing the reader's focus to the situation that's taking place, Carver relies on a first-person narrator to detail the events of the story. The unnamed narrator is anticipating a visit from a blind man named Robert. Despite Robert's upcoming visit, the narrator is very much focused on himself. The narrator reveals that Robert was his wife's "childhood sweetheart" and that they are still close. It is obvious that he has uneasy feelings about Robert's visit, but because his narration is so choppy and disjointed, it becomes difficult to decipher exactly what those feelings mean. Unlike "Hills Like White Elephants," where dialogue controls the pace of the narration, the unnamed narrator in "Cathedral" instead spills his inner thoughts paragraph after paragraph. What is actually happening with Robert and the narrator's wife doesn't seem to be nearly as important as what the narrator is thinking about them.

Despite this stark difference in narration and point-of-view, there are moments where both Hemingway's and Carver's stories are comparable. Both men use the simplest of descriptions to set a scene. For example, in the first paragraph of "Hills Like White Elephants," Hemingway writes:

"Close against the side of the station there was the warm shadow of the building and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads, hung across the open door into the bar, to keep out flies. The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building."

The narrator's attention to detail—the warm shadow, the curtain made of bamboo beads, the shaded table—all draw the reader into the scene.

Likewise, the first-person narrator in "Cathedral" also uses description to inform the reader. Carver writes:

"I remembered having read somewhere that the blind didn’t smoke because, as speculation had it, they couldn’t see the smoke they exhaled. I though I knew that much and that much only about blind people. But this blind man smoked his cigarette down to the nubbin and then lit another one. This blind man filled his ashtray and my wife emptied it."

Like the narrator in "Hills Like White Elephants," the unnamed narrator in "Cathedral" uses minuscule details to place the reader into the setting.

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