What is the setting in the story "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver?

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The action of this story is set in the narrator’s home, a suburban house in the USA. Conversations take place between the narrator and his wife in their living room and in the kitchen; and between the narrator, his wife, and Robert (the blind man) on the porch and in...

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The action of this story is set in the narrator’s home, a suburban house in the USA. Conversations take place between the narrator and his wife in their living room and in the kitchen; and between the narrator, his wife, and Robert (the blind man) on the porch and in the living room. From the clues in the story, we know that the location of this house is five hours by train from Connecticut:

So he was visiting the dead wife’s relatives in Connecticut. He called my wife from his in-law’s. Arrangements were made. He would come by train, a five-hour trip, and my wife would meet him at the station.

We also know that the train trip includes a “scenic ride along the Hudson.” So we can conclude from these clues that the story is likely set in upstate New York.

In addition to the physical setting, we can also consider the time that the story is set in. There are a few clues in the story about the time that the story is set. The first is that the characters discuss the difference between color TV and black & white TV sets and that the narrator and his wife only “traded up” to a color set recently. The second clue is that the narrator’s wife and the blind man communicated by recording themselves on tapes and posting them to each other. This happens for nine years before Robert meets the blind man—the first tape is sent “after a year or so,” referring to the summer that the narrator's wife spent working for Robert. It’s unclear in the story whether the characters are using cassette tapes or micro-cassettes: the narrator only refers to them as tapes. It’s likely that the narrator’s wife and Robert preferred to communicate this way due to the high price of long-distance phone calls at the time.

These two technological clues hint that the ten years described in the story are roughly between the mid-1960s—when the color TV, cassettes, and micro-cassettes became available in the USA—and 1981, when the story was written.

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The setting of the story is the narrator's house. Much of the story takes place in the living room. It is a room with a brand new sofa, purchased just two weeks before, a "big" chair, and a color television set. It has a window that looks out over the driveway, and it opens onto a front porch. It has a place to mix drinks, since the narrator does so while talking to Robert, the blind man. Since the story was written in 1983, we can imagine an ordinary early 1980s suburban house.

The story also takes place for a time in the dining room where the narrator, his wife, and Robert eat dinner. They eat a typical all-American meal of meat, scalloped potatoes, beans, bread, and butter, and strawberry pie for dessert.

The very ordinariness of the house mirrors how ordinary the narrator is and underlines how extraordinary it is for him to be confronted with and have his mind stretched by a blind man who his wife has been friends with for years.

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This story is set in a fairly unremarkable suburban house. This seems to be a deliberate choice—the narrator and his wife live ordinary, middle-class lives, and the narrator's initial impressions of his wife's friend, the blind man, stem from the idea that he must live a life very alien and different to the one he knows. The narrator does his job even though he doesn't enjoy it, because he doesn't much know what else he would do. With his wife, he pursues a very standard sort of existence; it is supposed to represent something universal to the modern American experience.

The blind man, Robert, comes into this setting and brings something important with him. The cathedral of the story's title is not a real cathedral, on one hand, but on the other it represents a setting the narrator did not know was available to him: the inside of his own mind. By encouraging him to draw and build his own cathedral, Robert, although he is blind, allows the narrator to see far more than he knew he was capable of.

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Their home is a very ordinary place, and this is important because it reflects on the ordinariness of the narrator and gives further meaning to the extraordinary experience of drawing the cathedral with the blind man, and the difference between the holiness of the cathedral and his home.  By the end of the story, significantly, "setting" no longer matters at all. It is not important what the narrator sees or where he is but what he feels and imagines:  "My eyes were still closed.  I was in my house.  I knew that.  But I didn't feel like I was inside anything."  His emotional capacity expands, transcending the limitations of any physical space.

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It takes place in the home of the narrator and his wife. They are a married couple who aren't happy with their lives until Rober arrives. Robert, the blind man, is coming to see the couple, and the narrator isn't too happy about it at the beginning. The epiphany he experiences, however, changes him.

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