What is Carver's minimalist style in "Cathedral"?

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Raymond Carver's "Cathedral " (1981) is written in a minimalistic style. The short story illustrates the minimalistic idea of "less is more": the idea that less complicated things are typically more effective than more complicated things. Carver's story provides a straightforward plot which most readers do not find...

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Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" (1981) is written in a minimalistic style. The short story illustrates the minimalistic idea of "less is more": the idea that less complicated things are typically more effective than more complicated things. Carver's story provides a straightforward plot which most readers do not find difficult to understand.

Carver also uses simplistic and realistic language so as not to complicate the story or the characters. The narrator, his wife, and the blind man all lack complex characterization. The characters are easily characterized, seemingly static (i.e., they do not undergo massive changes, although they do seem to undergo some small changes), and tend to be rather flat (i.e., not distinctly or complexly described).

While the story defines the importance of respecting alternative perspectives, the perspectives themselves are simplistic (as they revolve around the image of a cathedral). The story is easy to follow, and readers do not need elaborate analysis tools to understand the text as a whole.

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Raymond Carver's short story "Cathedral" contains several easily identifiable elements of minimalism. For example, the narrator tells the story in simple and easy-to-follow language. Additionally, the narrator withholds all psychological and emotional detail about his own experiences in the story. Third, the context and main events of the story are relatively straightforward and accessible.

The narrator's simple language depends very little upon descriptive adverbs and adjectives. For example, the living room of the narrator's house is not described in any specific way. This absence of detail leaves the imagery of the space up to the reader, and this involvement on the part of the reader is part of the appeal of minimalist writing.

The bare facts of the plot line and the events that drive the plot line of "Cathedral" forward are devoid of psychological or emotional precision. For example, the narrator admits that his wife's friend's blindness bothers him, but he does not explain why. Again, this empty space leaves it up to the reader to infer what it is about the state of blindness that is difficult for the narrator.

The entire narrative of "Cathedral" is based on a very accessible event: an old friend of the narrator's wife is coming to visit. The uncomplicated nature of this story communicates to readers the potential depth of every quotidian moment. Something meaningful can happen at any time anywhere.

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Although Carver did not like the label of minimalist writer, critics are almost unanimous in considering his style the quintessential example of minimalism. Literary minimalism is defined as spare in style and as stripping down to the essential elements both subject matters and their treatment. Like Hemingway's style, Carver's relies on ellepsis and omissions rather than on an accumulation of details. As he stated in an essay "On Writing", Carver thought it was possible "to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language to endow those things - a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman's earring - with immense, even starling power". Daily events part of the routines of common people are Carver's subject matters in Cathedral whose world is dominated by social problems such as unemployment, alcholism and alienation. Carver's characters struggle to carry on their lives. This is an undoubtedly minimalist feature as is the matter of fact narrative tone with sentences that almost snaps at readers. Yet, compared to Carver's previous work, the stories collected in Cathedral leave more space to hope for their characters and for their possibility to experience shared emotions and overcome their loneliness.

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