Friday, February 4, 2000


Description in Bethany Qualls' essay “Character and Narration in 'Cathedral'”.
There can be many responses derived from reading Raymond Carver's short story “Cathedral”, which can be either positive or negative. Bethany Quall's essay, “Character and Narration in “Cathedral'” has provided the reader with a delightful retort in which she tells the “reader in search of an exciting plot will be pretty disappointed . . . because the truth is nothing much happens”. (162) Quall creates her impact with the use of the description element through out her essay to prove her point; although the plot needs to be addressed. (Norton Introduction to Literature, pg 21-32, 162-164, 2006)
Quall's does a wonderful job honing in on the narrator's character. She is like an impressionist describing the narrator “through his words . . . more than his action”; thereby, “demonstrating his utter inability to connect with others or to understand himself”. (161) She provides the reader with multiple examples that were referred from the short story “Cathedral” of the narrator's close-mindedness and his emotional detachment from others such as, the narrator using labels to refer to “[h]is wife or “my wife”, his wife's friend as “the blind man” (Quall,162; Carver, 21) and uses “officer” to identify his wife's first husband, at the same time narrator questions” Why does he [officer] have a name?”. (Quall, 163; Carver: 22) Quall further succeeds to make her point with other quotations through out her essay that verifies the narrator's inept skill to communicate and to have an interpersonal relationship with anyone. (Norton Introduction to Literature, pg 21-32, 162-164, 2006)
While the writer applied a significant effort to provide the reader with supporting details in why the narrator is socially inept; she doesn't supply details why the reader should believe the plot was dull or insignificant. Does not the plot have a cause and effect on the characters and establishes a conflict along with its resolution? Perhaps Quall unknowingly insinuated the plot throughout her essay by accenting the conflict the narrator has with himself and others. Having said this, does it not show the impact the plot has on the characters. Her essay may have already provided some of the answers to plot formation in her initial sentence in some of her paragraphs; which are the following: “The narrator's isolation is most evident in the distanced way he introduces his own story and the people in it.”(162); “Once the visit . . . begins,the narrator's interaction and conversations with the other characters are even more awkward.” (163) and “There is hope for the narrator at the end as he gains some empathy and . . . bond[s] with Robert over the drawing of a cathedral.”(164) Non intentionally, her introductory infers the dull plot with the narrator. In other words, it might be clearer if she could mention or relate something as to why the plot was so disappointing. (Norton Introduction to Literature, pg 21-32, 162-164, 2006)
With the exception to the information that was previous stated, the introduction and conclusion in Quall's essay has taken on a mirrored effect to one another. Quall strategically place the narrator's “not feeling 'inside anything'” (Quall, 164; Carver, 32) as a false enlightenment combined with other descriptive words such as, “closed”, “judgmental”, “ isolated” and “[not]connected” (164) to substantiate the ambiguity in how the story “Cathedral” ends. Her conclusion reflects her introductory statement “ . . . . nothing much happens to him . . . .”(162) ,where the writer doubts a “change” in the narrator. (Norton Introduction to Literature, pg 21-32, 162-164, 2006)
Bethany Quall has placed a lot of emphasis on descriptive quotes from “Cathedral” to support her analogy. With the exception to “disappointing” (162) plot in her introduction, the conclusion sealed her essay. It is obvious that Quall enjoyed neither the plot nor the narrator and left the reader “wondering how much really happens in this story [Cathedral].” (164) (Norton Introduction to Literature, pg 21-32, 162-164, 2006)

Booth, A. & Hunter P.J. & Mays K.J. (Ed.). (2006). “Character and Narration in Cathedral"
The Norton Introduction to Literature: Portable Ed. (pp 162 -164) Indianapolis, IA: North, Inc.
Booth, A. & Hunter P.J. & Mays K.J. (Ed.). (2006). Carver, Raymond “Cathedral”
The Norton Introduction to Literature: Portable Ed. (pp 21 -32) Indianapolis, IA: North, Inc.

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