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Cathedral Essay

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The protagonist in “Cathedral,” Bub, is a man who has several defining characteristics. Bub is insecure, insensitive, and ignorant. This is clearly shown in Bub’s relationships with his wife and Robert. Bub’s insecurities are blatantly shown when he comments on his wife’s ex-husband:

Her officer-why should be have a name? He was her childhood sweetheart, and what more does he want?

Bub resents the ex-husband for being his wife’s first love. He would have liked to have had that role so he negatively addresses his wife’s past relationships. Bub’s unconfident mannerisms further transpire when he comments on his wife’s relationship with Robert. He states:

In time she put it all on tape and sent the tape to the blind man. Over the years she put all kinds of stuff on tapes and sent the tapes off lickety-split. Next to writing a poem every year, I think it was her chief recreation. On the tape, she told the blind man she’d decided to live away from her officer for a time. On another tape she told him about her divorce. She and I began going out, and of course she told her blind man about it. She told him everything, or so it seemed to me.

This intense friendship between his wife and Robert further exacerbated his insecurities. Robert and his wife have an intimate relationship that Bub has never, and probably will never, have with his wife. He goes on to say:

My wife finally took her eyes off the blind man and looked at me. I had the feelings she didn’t like what she saw. I shrugged.

This relationship offers Bub only one consolation, he believes that because he can see that has an advantage. He constantly refers to Robert as “the blind man.” He never uses Robert’s name or assigns any human attributes to him. This insecurity is partially responsible for his wife’s continued involvement with Robert.

     Also responsible for his wife’s close relationship with Robert is Bub’s inability to feel. He exhibits a great lack of emotional depth. Bub comments on Robert’s marriage:

They’d married, lived and worked together, slept together-had sex, sure- and then the blind man had to bury her. All this without having never seen what the goddamned woman looked like.

He has no feelings of sympathy for the loss of Robert’s wife. Bub goes on to comment about his wife telling him exactly happened to Robert’s wife. He says, “My wife filled me in w...


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...s his freedom from his sheltered and close-minded life.

     The overall themes of the story were alienation and loneliness. The main characters experience, and have experienced alienation and loneliness. Bub is discontented in his work, envious of his wife, and isolated from other human beings and also from himself. Because of this, Bub resents his wife’s connections with other people. Keening this in mind, Bub makes no effort to correct this problem. When Robert arrives he makes to attempt to engage him in conversation. He prefers to remain cut off and observe. As the conversation breaks, Bub turns on the television, which is not only extremely impolite, but one that offers proof of Bub’s detachment with his wife and her friend.

     The story demonstrates an interesting sort of irony. The disability that Bub condemned and presupposed was in fact a handicap that he had himself. He was emotionally blind. Robert assisted Bub in overcoming those traits that were keeping him from experiencing the most wonderful things in life. This freed Bub from his insecurities, ignorance, and insensitivities. He was then capable of truly seeing.


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