Response to Bethany Qualls “Character and Narration in Cathedral ”

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Bethany Qualls has analysed the interrelationship of characters and plot with the same narrow mindedness as the narrator in the story ‘Cathedral’ perceives his surroundings and his reason to co-exist with other characters. Bethany Qualls may have attempted really hard to support her arguments with various material from the text to prove that the story lacked a strong link between the plot, characterisation and the resolution and that the reader is left with a taste of disappointment and dissatisfaction by the end of the story but in fact she fails to recognise many subtle aspects of the story that could let her perceive the correlation of the aspects of the story apart from the stereo typical and conventional style that ultimately bring a mere perfect ending and no provocation in the minds of the readers.

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Response to Bethany Qualls essay “Character and Narration in Cathedral”

Bethany Qualls essay ‘Character and Narration of Cathedral’ depicts her abrupt and immediate response as a mere reader of the story and does not complement her analytical perception. The story ‘Cathedral’ may not be a very good example of interrelationship of the contents of a story yet a sensible manner of critical analysis can always detect multi-dimensional arguments that would help in not labelling the work of literature with any specified external point of view.

Qualls in the very first line of the story continues with the distaste of the story’s inadequate ending. Although on the surface she justifies her analysis by quoting from the text and also giving valid reasons yet her arguments seem to lack the concentration of critical perception that would substantiate her point of view to categorise this story to be weak in plot and characterisation. In the very first line of her essay she comments

A reader in search of an exciting plot will be pretty disappointed by Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” because the truth is nothing much happens.

To give such a drastic comment about the entire content of the story right in the beginning of the story shows that perhaps Qualls was very anxious to vent out her own dissatisfaction. She feels that the entire action, narration and the character portrayal had very less or perhaps had “nothing” to do with the plot; where as it may be the other way that she herself is unable to identify any unique technique or style of depiction that the author is trying to suggest or which could be identified anyhow?

In the entire essay Qualls has mainly quoted from the story and has suggested comments and has adamantly focused on adhering to her idea of criticising the content of the story from a single aspect. Her main focus is on the narrator and his narrow minded thoughts that he conveys in his opinions about his wife and her blind friend and her ex-husband and also that how strangely his behaviour is in the entire story and how inappropriate the entire action is in relation to the title and the plot. Where as if Bethany Qualls had just shifted her angle of observation she could have question and have reasoned why Carver has written such kind of content?

The title of the story “Cathedral” is discussed in almost the last portion of the story; it had a very little, but resolving action to be associated with. Qualls, despite her seeming strong attitude in proving her arguments fails to identify the character of the narrator as a personification of the concept of “Cathedral” and the blind man to be a source of his connection with the idea of cathedral and who despite his mysterious conviction ultimately fails to awaken the insight within the narrator.

The whole story could be identified as an absurd concept of depicting a religious plot, which was thus very aptly associated with nameless and even handicapped characters and with a constricted action based on limited thought process and ideas that these characters execute through the action of excessive drinking and doping. Qualls fails to relate the content of the story with the ideology which is perhaps more strong than the plot.


Booth, Alison & Hunter, J. Paul & Mays, J. Kelly. The Norton Introduction to Literature. Portable edition.

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