Excerpt from “Notes on Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral’”
First person narrators are characters who tell the story from the perspective of “I’” or “we”: here’s the story as I saw it and thought about it and felt about it. Because these are first person human perspectives, naturally they are limited with respect to how that character perceives the surrounding world, what they are able to know and see. This tends to make first person narrators somewhat unreliable as trustworthy sources for information -- not to say that you must not rely on them at all. What other choice do you have but listen to the storyteller? But you need to take what the narrator gives you and run it through a critical filter. Based on the available inputs, can you believe this narrator? Is he or she filtering the events, selecting how to see them based on the individual's character traits? In other words, it is important to treat the narrator as a full fledged character in the story.