“Cathedral” (28) is Raymond Carver’s short story about the anticipation and fulfillment of one man’s encounter with his wife’s blind friend. The man, who is also the narrator, is wary of this rendezvous, having known no blind people in his own life up to that point. His ignorance is apparent as he thinks of blind people only from a cinematic perspective. He tells us “My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies the blind moved slowly and never laughed” (28). From his cynical and insecure tone, we can tell that the main character is a complacent man full of self-doubt with an inability to think outside of world that he knows.
The narration, however, changes unexpectedly after the blind man has been at their home for the evening. He undergoes an epiphany as the blind man opens our narrator’s eyes to an existence he did not know was possible. The main character’s insecurity is underscored by his inability to acknowledge the significance of another man in his wife’s life, whether an ex-husband or simply an old friend. This is exemplified by the fact that he avoids mentioning the name of his wife’s ex-husband.
While this may seem like a negligible factor, it would not be so important if the narrator did not make it aware that this omission of detail was entirely and defiantly intentional. He harps “Her officer—why should he have a name? He was the childhood sweetheart, and what more does he want? ”(29). Additionally, during the visit he morosely sits and watches his wife and Robert, the blind man, converse hoping to hear her mention his name. “I waited in vain to hear my name on my wife’s sweet lips: “And then my dear husband came into my life” –something like that. But I heard nothing of the sort.
More talk of Robert” (32). When the conversation does turn toward him, he at first cannot engage due to these insecurities and discomfort with the blind man. “From time to time, he’d turn his face toward me, put his hand under his beard, ask me something. How long I had been in my present position? (Three years. ) Did I like my work? (I didn’t. ) Was I going to stay with it? (What were the options? )” (33). Clearly our narrator is not thrilled with his life and does not care to do anything about it where as the blind man so far had a life that seemed more fulfilling in spite of his impairment.
The narrator admits that Robert was “regular blind jack of all trades” (32). He also makes note of Robert’s ability to function as a normal human being – something he never realized was possible. Robert ate, drank, and smoked just like anyone else and could even tell if the TV was color or black and white. It is this attention to Robert’s ability to function that begins the narrator’s change. The narrator’s epiphany crystallizes with his attempt to describe the cathedrals appearing on a late-night television program to Robert.
Robert suggests that the he draw the cathedral and envelops his hand as he draws in order to physically trace the silhouettes as they are drawn. The narrator is then instructed to close his eyes and keep drawing. At that moment, the narrator shares a commonplace with the blind man as they both trace the silhouettes of the drawing without being able to see. The narrator says “It was like nothing else in my life up to now” (37). Even after told to open his eyes and look at the picture he had drawn, the narrator does not. He says “My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that.
But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything” (37). At that point the narrator is released from the captivity of his ignorance and insecurity. He was not impaired by his closed eyes as he was still able to draw the cathedral and even though he was at home, it is as if the confinement of walls and boundaries did not exist. It is at this point that he is able to see the way the blind man sees – without his eyes, with all other senses liberated. Work Cited Carver, Raymond. “Cathedral” The Norton Introduction To Literature. By Alison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. New York, 2010. 929-42. Print.