It is, thus, that a comparative analysis of "Cathedral," "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," and "A Small Good Thing" are replete with meaning regarding light and dark, faith and love. In all, and as will be argued in this essay, the mentioned meanings/themes are symbolized through the male-female relationship.
Human relationships, the way in which men and women interact with one another, conveys a spiritual, even biblical theme, in the three named stories. "In A Small Good Thing," bread symbolizes faith and religion. At the end of the story, Carver allows his characters to meet, discuss their predicament and explore their loss. Scotty's parents confront the baker and even though he had made several menacing calls regarding Scotty, the confrontation assumes an air of spirituality. Instead of turning into a violent or bitter exchange, it becomes a moment of shared experiences. As Scotty's parents recount their loss, the baker explains what happened to him, apologizing for having harassed them. A connection, a union, is formed between the baker and Scotty's parents. He offers them bread, "a small good thing," and they eat, they talk, and they come to terms with one another and with their suffering. The bread, symbolizing the crystallization of the relationship between the parents and the baker, is not just "a small good thing," as the baker describes it but, is reconciliation with others and with oneself, such as which comes through faith. In other words, within the context of this seemingly simple story and this very common symbol, bread, Carver, provides an in depth glimpse into that which keeps people going and allows them to survive - faith.
Light and dark, symbolized through the male-female dichotomy and the sight-blindness imagery, dominate in "Cathedral." As with "A Small Good Thing," Carver takes a single moment/incident and dissects it in order to come up, not with a story, but with a commentary upon the nature of life and human relationships. The wife symbolizes light. Certainly, she has had moments of darkness, including ones of utter despair such as when she attempted suicide but, she is able to hang on and persist because she has an innate faith in the presence of goodness. Thus, she writes poems to immortalize/capture important personal experience, continues her friendship with a blind man over the years and, when that man suffers a personal loss, invites him to spend some time with her and her husband. Her belief in the presence of light/goodness, extends to faith that her husband will go out of his way to entertain her blind friend. Needless to say, her husband does not go out of his way but a bond, nevertheless develops between the husband and friend. That bond, forged over cannabis, becomes that "small good thing" of the previous story - it becomes the crystallization of faith in the presence of goodness.
The theme of light and dark is further reflected in the sight and blindness imagery which pervades "Cathedral." The blind man is revealed not as the one who lives in the dark but, paradoxically, in light. He sees the infinite possibilities which the husband,