Writing Assignment on
Raymond Carver's "Cathedral"

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Write on one of the following topics:

Topic A. At the end of the story, the blind man, after telling the narrator not to fudge by looking too soon, finally says "Take a look. What do you think?"  The narrator says: 

But I had my eyes closed.  I thought I'd keep them that way for a little longer.  I thought it was something I ought to do.

Referring to as many details in the story that you can find that might point to an explanation, discuss why the narrator thought this was something he ought to do.

Topic B.  A cathedral is a place where, among other things, the sacrament of communion is offered to believers.  What are the various obstacles that made it unlikely that the narrator would be likely to share anything deep with the man who comes to visit his house?  What nevertheless is the nature of the "communion" that eventually takes place?  What facts of the story make this virtual miracle something that, for the reader, is ultimately believable -- plausible, convincing (rather than merely "forced" or "tacked on" by the author)?

Topic C.  Carver once wrote:  "It's possible, in a poem or a short story, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things -- a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman's earring -- with immense, even startling power....  If the words are heavy with the writer's own unbridled emotions, or if they are imprecise and inaccurate for some other reason - if the words are in any was blurred -- the reader's eyes will slide right over them and nothing will be achieved.  The reader's own artistic sense will simply not be engaged."

Pick one or two short passages from Carter's story -- at least one from near the end -- and explain how it engages your own artistic sense.  Focus on the particular features of precise language that struck your attention, and unpack some of the important connotations these release, for you, that account for the passage's power. 

  Consult the Study Guide to this story before attempting this writing assignment.

  You may also wish to review the general instructions on writing assignments.

  Suggestions are welcome.  Please send your comments to lyman@ksu.edu .

      Contents copyright 1999 by Lyman A. Baker

Permission is granted for non-commercial educational use; all other rights reserved.

  This page last updated 27 April 1999.