What does the cathedral symbolize in Raymond Carver's story "Cathedral"?

The cathedral in Raymond Carver's story "Cathedral" symbolizes an opportunity for the narrator and his guest to discover common ground and "see" things in a new light. While Robert gets a clear impression of what a cathedral looks like, the narrator gains an understanding of what it means to be empathetic.

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I would argue that the cathedral in Raymond Carver's great story symbolizes the discovery of empathy, the discovery of common ground, and the loss of inhibitions.

At the start of the story, the narrator is suspicious and jealous of Robert after learning that Robert (who is blind) has been corresponding with his wife by means of cassette tapes.

After sharing dinner and smoking some marijuana together, the two men start to bond. When a documentary about cathedrals comes on the television which is on in the background, the narrator shows empathy and compassion for Robert by describing the buildings for him. This leads to the decision to work together to draw a cathedral, which allows Robert to get a real idea of what the cathedral looks like and gives the narrator an opportunity to experience something of what it is like to be blind.

For the narrator, who lacks social graces and has experienced jealousy towards Robert, the cathedral symbolizes an opportunity to put somebody else's needs ahead...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 928 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on October 7, 2020