Minimalism & Irony in Raymond Carver’s Short Story “Cathedral”

Outline:

Introduction ……………………….3

Minimalism in Cathedral…………….3

The meaning of the female character ……………………4

The connection between irony and minimalism in Cathedral………………4

Conclusion ……………………5

Introduction

The short story collection cathedral by Raymond Carver is one of the most popular and respected works of the author. The stories of this collection offer outstanding insight into the emotional world and perceptions of the main characters. In one of his interviews, devoted to the story, Carver commented that: “the first story I wrote was ‘Cathedral,’ which I feel is totally different in conception and execution from any stories that have come before. I suppose it reflects a change in my life as much as it does in my way of writing. (McCaffery, Gregory, Carver 2012). Carver is a representative of minimalist writers of his era and his nihilistic views could be traced in most of his works, Cathedral is not an exception.

With the help of his minimalist style Carver managed to create a simple, but profound narration, providing the readers minimum of facts and maximum of space for their own considerations of the characters and themes of Cathedral.

Minimalism in Cathedral

The most vivid and the most important characteristic feature of Cathedral by Raymond Carver is the author’s minimalist approach and its impact upon the readers, who are forced to make a lot of considerations and conclusions on their own. Minimalism is actually a unique style in literature, as “minimalism, more than any other technique, emphasizes to the point of cruelty the shortfall between the gifts of the world and out desire for plenitude” (Facknitz 1990). For example in Cathedral, the readers are not actually informed directly about the details of the relationships between the husband and his wife, they are to guess that most probably they experience problems in their relationship, which could not be solved without the intention to change for both or for at least one of them. The author used simple language to tell the story, moreover, the whole story is told from the position of a simple man, who seems even too naïve sometimes. The author does not inform such details as the names of the characters or the name of the setting for the described events. Such minimalist approach motivates the imagination of the readers and their active participating in the creative composing process.

The meaning of the female character

Cathedral is told by a male narrator, but the story is outstanding, as the author changes the gender of the narrator in the process, making the male and female interventions contribute to creating his unique minimalist style.  The author leaves space for the development of female character and revealing of its traits. In Cathedral the author avoids the traditional masculinities, making a female subject more active. The narrator remains constantly focused upon his wife, when he reconsiders the perspective of her blind friend’s visit to their house. Thus Raymond Carver managed to create such cross-gender narration, which even reinforced the impact of his minimalist approach. (Marshall 1993).

The connection between irony and minimalism in Cathedral

The central role in the short story is played by significant irony. The narrator is able to see the world around him and disdains blindness, but finally comes to realize that he is more blind, that his wife’s friend. He puts so many limitations on him that he is not able to exist beyond them any more. This is the greatest irony of the story that the blind man is to teach the narrator “to see”. The process of describing the cathedral is the key element of the story. When the narrator realizes that he is not able to do it, he tries to hide behind his cynic comments: “The truth is, cathedrals don’t mean anything special to me. Nothing. Cathedrals. They’re something to look at on late-night TV.” (Carver). But in reality it is clear that the narrator is affected. When he finally closes his eyes and makes his first attempts to see more in the world, he says “I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything.” (Carver). The minimalist approach of the author in combination with his descriptions of transcendental of the narrator constitutes the purpose of the writing of the short story.

Conclusion

The short story Cathedral by Raymond Carver is one of the brightest stories in his collection, is a vivid example of his unique literary style, which is a combination of minimalism with various literary elements. As a representative of the minimalist writers, Carver created simple and straightforward plot, at the same time leading the readers much deeper into the souls and minds of his characters.

Works cited:

Carver, Raymond. Cathedral.Vintage; Reissue edition, 1989

Facknitz, Mark A. R. Raymond Carver and the Menace of Minimalism. Vol. 52, No. ½, 1990

McCaffery, Larry, Gregory, Sinda, Carver, Raymond. An Interview with Raymond Carver Mississippi Review Vol. 39, No. 1/3, 2012

Annotated Bibliography

Facknitz, Mark A. R. Raymond Carver and the Menace of Minimalism. Vol. 52, No. ½, 1990

This source was useful for understanding of the concept of minimalism in literature and the reasons, why some of the authors used this style in their works. Without getting any information about minimalism in literature, the stories, written with minimalist approach, might seem too simple and lacking some important elements. The author of the article does his best, considering various sides of minimalism in literature.

McCaffery, Larry, Gregory, Sinda, Carver, Raymond. An Interview with Raymond Carver Mississippi Review Vol. 39, No. 1/3, 2012

This article is very informative in relation to the specific features of the author. In addition it presents his own position and reflections regarding his writings, which is certainly the key towards better perception and understanding of the real message and purpose of the narration. The article helps to better understand the characters of Carver, their ideas and positions, which are also the reflections of the main ideas of the author.

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]