Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral”: Exploring Perception and Transformation

Exclusively available on PapersOwl
Updated: Aug 24, 2023
Cite this
Date added
Pages:  3
Order Original Essay

How it works

“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver: A Glimpse into Prejudice

Have you ever judged someone by their appearance? Or by the way, they speak or act? Cathedral by Raymond Carver was published in 1893. Cathedral is narrated in the first person and is about a blind man who comes to visit the narrator and his wife. At first, the narrator does not realize how much Robert, the blind man, means to his wife, but by the end of the story, the narrator has an epiphany and sees Robert, the blind man, for who he really is.

Need a custom essay on the same topic?
Give us your paper requirements, choose a writer and we’ll deliver the highest-quality essay!
Order now

When reading through a Freudian lens, Raymond Carver’s Cathedral explores the theme of prejudice because of the narrator’s manifested superego, id, and ego.

The Superego and Prejudice

The narrator’s manifested superego appears in the story Cathedral through the narrator’s judgment of Robert, the blind man. His wife and Robert have been communicating by sending audio tapes for over ten years. She met Robert one summer in Seattle before she got married to a man in the Navy. On her last day of work, she allowed Robert to touch her face, and she began writing poems about it. Years later, she showed it to the narrator when they began to go out. The narrator did not like the poems. The narrator is displeased with the fact that Robert is visiting him and his wife. When reading the start of Cathedral, the narrator seems to be bitter about the connection that his wife has with Robert. The narrator views Robert’s visit as an inconvenience. The narrator also appears to have a minimal understanding of blindness because he thinks that blind people are miserable and depressed. His judgment towards Robert is from what he has seen on television. This is an ironic moment in the story because, through Robert’s guidance, the narrator begins to see things in a new way, and the narrator finally opens his eyes to the world around him. For the first time, the narrator is “seeing” rather than looking at the world around him. Despite the narrator’s superego, there are many reasons to think that his manifested id explores the theme of prejudice.

Delving into the Id

The narrator’s id is explored in Raymond Carver’s Cathedral. Throughout the short story, the narrators can be identified. The narrator is very self-centered and appears to only care about things that revolve around drinking, sex, marijuana, and watching television. “I didn’t want to be left alone with a blind man. I asked if he wanted another drink, and he said sure. Then I asked if he wanted to smoke some dope with me. I said I’d just rolled a number. I hadn’t, but I planned to do so in about two shakes. ‘I’ll try some with you,’ he said. ‘Damn right,’ I said. ‘That’s the stuff.’… Then, I rolled out two fat numbers. I lit one and passed it.”

Smoking marijuana seems to be a ritual for the narrator. In the story, Robert mentions that he has never smoked marijuana before, but it seems like he has been smoking since a young age because of the way he was so comfortable with it. The narrator displays his manifested IDs throughout the story. However, he shows a different side to him after spending time with the protagonist, Robert, the blind man.

An Ego Transfo3rmed by a Cathedral

At the end of the story, the narrator starts to show his new ego towards Robert, the blind friend of his wife. The narrator was watching TV while Robert was listening. The only thing on was a documentary about cathedrals. As the narrator was watching the documentary, he wondered if Robert knew what a cathedral is, and so he asked him. “Something has occurred to me. Do you have any idea what a cathedral is? What do they look like, that is? Do you follow me? If somebody says Cathedral to you, do you have any notion what they’re talking about? Do you know the difference between that and a Baptist church, say?”

Robert responded by saying that he knew only a little about cathedrals and asked the narrator to describe them to him. The narrator tries but is unable to find the words to describe what he sees successfully. Robert comes up with a bright idea and tells the narrator to find a pen and paper. So, the narrator goes and grabs a shopping bag with onion skins in the bottom of the bag; he empties the bag and brings it into the living room. Sitting on the floor, Robert puts his hand on top of the narrator’s hand, telling the narrator to start drawing a cathedral. Robert checks the drawing with his fingers and tells the narrator to keep going, and then Robert tells the narrator to close his eyes. He does and completes the drawing with his eyes closed. To the narrator, this experience is eye-opening, and it changes the narrator’s understanding of life without eyes. “My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything. ‘It’s really something,’ I said.” This experience allowed the narrator to experience something new and different, which changed his perspective of Robert. He was no longer rude or unfriendly to Robert, and he was no longer aware of Robert’s disability. This experience changed the narrator’s life and allowed him to feel empathy for Robert.

Conclusion: The Depth Behind Prejudice

Overall, when Cathedral by Raymond Carver is read through a Freudian lens, the theme of prejudice is explored through the narrator’s manifested superego of the narrator’s judgment of a blind man, self-centered id, and empathetic ego. Always remember not to judge a book by its cover because you never know what the story holds behind the cover.


  1. Carver, R. (1983). Cathedral. In Cathedral (pp. 89-99). 
The deadline is too short to read someone else's essay
Hire a verified expert to write you a 100% Plagiarism-Free paper

Cite this page

Raymond Carver's "Cathedral": Exploring Perception and Transformation. (2023, Aug 24). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/raymond-carvers-cathedral-exploring-perception-and-transformation/