Blindness in Cathedral by Raymond Carver


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In the story "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver, it tells of how a blind man is open to new experiences and how he views the world compared to the husband (narrator) who is blinded by the material things of life. The husband is given the gift of sight but the true gift comes from seeing the cathedral. At the beginning of the story, the husband’s outlook on others is filled with stereotypes, discrimination, insecurities and prejudice. After interacting with Robert, his wife's friend, his outlook begins to change significantly.
The husband is self-absorbed, ignorant, and insensitive. He is only concerned with how Robert's visit will affect him. The husband's insensitivity is revealed early on in the story. He admits "A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to" (104). He even goes a step further and suggest to his wife they should go bowling. Although he is insensitive, he is polite. He asks Robert if he would like a drink and tries to engage in small talk. Yet, he shows his insensitivity again when he asks him what side of the train he sat on during his travel.
In the first paragraph, the narrator also reveals his ignorance. He believes that all blind people are based on only what he has seen in movies, "My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed. Sometimes they are led by seeing-eye dogs “(104). The narrator was surprised when he noticed Robert was not like this. The narrator is also surprised when Robert lights a cigarette. He believes blind people don’t smoke because “they couldn’t see the smoke they exhaled” (108). The husband starts to feel more comfortable after this. The three of them sit down for dinner and the husbands is impressed with the how Robert is able to locate his food, cut with a knife, and eat properly. This is where the narrator’s outlook starts to undergo change.
After dinner the husband continues to test Robert and ask him if he would like some marijuana. The narrator is surprised when Robert accepts his offer to smoke. His first smoke was a little awkward because the narrator had to explain to Robert how to smoke it. After a couple puffs, the narrator is impressed on how well Robert smoked the marijuana. This is when the husband starts to see Robert as a person and not a blind man; he is starting to relate to Robert a little bit.

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Not long after the narrator’s wife falls asleep, they start watching a program about cathedrals. Robert tries to interact with him and asks him to describe the cathedral and what it looks like. The narrator was at loss for words on how to describe the cathedral. He gives up explaining saying “But 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” (112). Robert then asks him to draw the cathedral while he rests his hand on top of his. Robert encourages him to keep drawing. As the narrator draws, he becomes excited about drawing the cathedral even though the blind man can’t see it. The narrator goes into great detail as Robert encourages him to draw even more. Robert knows the change is coming, as he says, “Terrific….Never thought anything like this could happen in your lifetime, did you, bub?” (113).
After drawing for a while Robert asks the narrator to close his eyes and continues to draw and he does. At this moment the narrator sees as a blind man. He truly realizes that seeing has nothing to do with having insight. Robert asks him to open his eyes and look at the drawing but the narrator keeps his eyes closed. He sees the drawing the way Robert sees it. The narrator starts to feel overwhelmed but they kept on drawing because “It was nothing else in my life up to now” (113).
At the beginning of the story we are introduced to an ignorant and insensitive man. His is insensitive to his wife’s blind friend. He is ignorant to the facts about the blind man, believing only what he sees in the movies and what he imagines to be true. Throughout the story the narrator goes through a significant, slow change into a man who understands and relates to the blind man. He realized it was he who was blind, not Robert.









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