What is a good thesis statment for an interpretation essay of "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver?

Expert Answers
mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a very open-ended and personal decision on your part; writing an interpretation essay on a short story will depend entirely on your interpretation of the piece.  In order to determine that, try asking yourself several questions.  What did I get out of this story?  What do I think that the author is trying to say?  What is the main point of the story and how does the author make that point?  If you think of some responses to that question, then that will lead you towards an interpretation statement that youc an use for your thesis.

I have provided several links below on writing essays, and on the story's theme and meaning, that might lead you in the right direction.  Take a look at those, as they will be useful.  In the meantime, to get you started, consider the following possible interpretations:  In Raymond Carver's "Cathedral," he is making the point that allowing yourself to put yourself into someone else's shoes is one of the best things that you can do.  Or, Raymond Carver, in his story "Cathedral," points out that empathy and perspective are the only way to truly experience profound emotion.  Or, In "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver, the main character discovers that to let go of his own rigid perceptions of the world is the most rewarding choice he can make.  So, those are some possible interpretations of the story that might work for a thesis statement.  Then, go through the story and find key quotes and passages that relate to that statement, and you'll be set to go!  I hope that helped a bit; good luck!

epollock | Student


A thesis is an idea or message that you want to prove expressed as a sentence. It parallels the theme: a central idea or message of a story expressed as a sentence.

The sentence aspect is quite important the further you advance in literary studies. Most often, it is misinterpreted as a word, such as justice, or poverty, or love, but those are merely subjects (words) and not themes (sentences).

In Raymond Carver's "Cathedral," On the surface, “Cathedral” is a simple story told flatly by a narrator of limited awareness, both of himself and of others. His misgivings about the visit, rooted in his lack of experience with the blind, are clearly spelled out in paragraphs 1, 5, 9, and 17; the fact that his perceptions are veiled by unexamined assumptions is shown further in paragraphs 31 and 44. His blundering attempts at small talk lead to increased discomfort (25), and it seems to be a combination of thoughtlessness and the wish to cover over the awkward situation that impels him finally to turn on the television set.

Throughout, his wife demonstrates a much more relaxed attitude, seeing Robert not as an abstraction or the representative of an alien group, but as an individual, a valued friend and former colleague—so much so, in fact, that in some ways she seems to have an easier and more intimate rapport with him than she does with her own husband. The narrator initially reacts with jealousy and resentment at his seeming exclusion from this closeness; but as the story proceeds, he slowly achieves an emotional breakthrough.

“Cathedral” presents a succession of psychological and spiritual openings brought about because the narrator is repeatedly thrown out of his comfort zone. He can either accept new information (understanding that blind men have beards, for instance) or find a way to block the information. The culmination comes in the final scene, where he “didn’t feel like [he] was inside anything.” 

The narrator in “Cathedral” is intent on stopping up his senses. He doesn’t want to know any more than he has to, so it seems appropriate that he watches television, drinks, eats, and smokes pot through much of the story. The blind man, Robert, joins him, but for the narrator this binge seems to be a daily pattern. The emphasis on drinking, eating, and smoking early in the story (drinking is one of their “pastimes”) alleviates some of the tension between husband and wife as well as the narrator’s discomfort in having “the blind man” in his home. During the meal, the narrator begins to refer to Robert by his name instead of “the blind man.” This marks the beginning of a change in the narrator.

A great thesis statement could be: The narrator, a man of limited awareness breaks through his limitations by socializing with a blind man. This is revealed through Carver's description of the narrator, his actions, and his eventual self-realization at the end of the story.