In “Cathedral,” Raymond Carver wrote the story of an unnamed male narrator who describes a visit from Robert, a blind male friend of his wife. Roberts’ arrival and stay in the narrator’s home causes the narrator to abandon his stereotypes about blind people and to understand himself better. Carver, through his story, claims that in order to be free we must detach ourselves from stereotypes and focus on self understanding. Carver uses “Cathedral” as the title for his story in order to emphasize that the process of completing a cathedral is more important than the end result, which could take approximately one hundred years.
In the process of drawing a cathedral with the blind man, the narrator, putting himself in Robert’s shoes, is enlightened while a meaningful relationship develops between the two men. The narrator goes through a process of transformation. In the beginning of the story, the narrator is very much against Robert’s visit. Jealousy and hatred seem to overcome him. His wife’s fondness for Robert and their close friendship that has spanned thousand of miles and ten years bothers him.
Furthermore, the stereotypical image that he has built in his mind about blind men hinders him from welcoming Robert into his home and into his life. However, things change as the narrator and Robert begin on a quest to draw a cathedral. The end result is not the cathedral drawn but the feeling that overcomes the narrator after having embarked on the process.
The narrator’s new found consciousness would not have come about if not for the process. By drawing, the narrator is able to experience different feelings that have been alien to him before. Even with eyes closed, the narrator still succeeds in producing the cathedral. This demonstrates that the value is not in the final product but in the journey that one undergoes to reach it. It is not the end product that heightens spirituality in an individual; it is the journey that allows a person to reach further.
It is not the end product but the journey that allows the person to experience. Without the process, there will be no experience. Looking at someone else’s work is far different from producing the work. One appreciates the end product more if he realizes the work that goes into producing it. The story of “Cathedral” clearly demonstrates such. The narrator had difficulty describing the cathedrals that were shown on television. This was because he had little understanding and experience in cathedrals. As the narrator said, “I can’t tell you what a cathedral looks like.
It just isn’t in me to do it. I can’t do any more than I’ve done.” His difficulty stems not from his inability to see the cathedral; it comes from his lack of experience and understanding of what a cathedral is and what it stands for. The narrator sees no value in cathedrals. He said, “The truth is, cathedrals don’t mean anything special to me. Nothing. Cathedrals. They’re something to look at on late-night TV. That’s all they are.” However, having embarked on the process of drawing a cathedral, the narrator is able to experience. He is able to build a new perspective on things. This goes to show that it is not the end result but the journey to it that really matters.