REVIEWS: Cathedral Reinforcement

As I said, I could likely have gone from those two first paragraphs to a conclusion, and the thought of a dozen pages in between seems extraneous, but there is a subtlety about Carver’s story that make the reinforcing of characters enjoyable reading.  We also get a chance to form our own opinion of the narrator’s wife.

We get a good idea of their relationship from the narrator’s recall of her wanting to shop him a poem she wrote about her feelings when Robert touched her face:

I can remember I didn’t think much of the poem.  Of course, I didn’t tell her that.  Maybe I just don’t understand poetry.

Clearly he keeps his feelings to himself, even as she is will to share her relationship with Robert with him.   Perhaps she even understands that she must prove to him that it is innocent, or that it’s not something she for any reason is keeping to herself.  I like the softening effect of the last sentence–in case his rancor came through too strongly.

When he describes her first marriage, there is sarcasm and separation: "this man who’d first enjoyed her favors, this officer-to-be…"  Even the fact of her unhappiness in her first marriage doesn’t lessen his resentment:

But instead of dying she got sick.  She threw up.  Her officer–why should he have a name? he was the childhood sweetheart, and what more does he want?–came home from somewhere, found her, and called the ambulance. 

And so too, Robert does not have a name, nor does "his wife."  Interesting as well is the present tense use of "what more does he want?’  that reveals that at least in the narrator’s mind, the first husband is very much a presence and a threatening one.

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