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American Literary Minimalism is an important yet largely misunderstood movement. Even though a number of scholars have attempted to describe the mode, it remains poorly defined. Part of the problem is that the roots of the tradition have not been thoroughly explored. The aim of this essay is to examine how Literary Impressionism, a style practiced by authors such as Anton Chekhov and Stephen Crane near the turn of the century, shaped the aesthetic of one of the most prominent practitioners of American Minimalism, Raymond Carver. "Cathedral, "perhaps Carver's most important short story, illustrates the nexus between the modes. The unnamed narrator objectively reports past sensory experiences, an action common in Impressionistic works, but like many Minimalist protagonists is ultimately unable to articulate the significance of the events he describes
Raymond Carver's fiction is characterized by characters that tend toward insularity and isolation. While his stories are generally bleak and depressing, Carver's stories in 'Cathedral' are unlike his other works. In 'Cathedral,' Carver's characters open up or de-insulate themselves, usually through the influence of other characters who accidentally or unexpectedly enter the characters' lives. The characters are then led toward awareness or a new perspective on life that derails their self-destruction.
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