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Cathedral by Raymond Carver Essay

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Cathedral: A Lesson for the Ages

Raymond Carver’s short story, “Cathedral,” portrays a story in which many in today’s society can relate. We are introduced from the first sentence of the story to a man that seems to be perturbed and agitated. As readers, we are initially unsure to the reasoning’s behind the man’s discomfort. The man, who seems to be a direct portrayal of Raymond Carver himself, shows his ignorance by stereotyping a blind man by the name of Robert, who has come to stay with he and his wife. From the very beginning, Carver shows his detest for Robert but over the course of the story eases into comfort with him and in the end is taught a lesson from the very one he despised.

The story begins with a description of the relation’s between he, his wife and Robert. It is unveiled that Robert employed Raymond Carver’s wife, whose name is never stated, ten years previous by having her read reports and case studies to him since his blindness would not permit him to do it himself. She hadn’t seen him since those days but “she and the blind man kept in touch. They mailed tapes and sent them back and forth.” (506) The story also is set up by briefly describing Carver’s wife’s past relations with her first husband. Their past marital troubles seem to be a main basis for the wife’s and Robert’s extended contact. After this background history, the story then jumps into the present with the Blind man on his way to stay for a night.

The blind man is invited to stay with the Carver’s by Raymond’s wife for he has just been through the death of his own wife and is now alone. Even this being the case, Raymond Carver’s distaste for the blind man is evident from the first paragraph on. “I wasn’t enthusiastic about his visit. He was no one I knew. And his being blind bothered me.” (506) Carver’s distaste for Robert is blatantly apparent even subsequent to his arrival at their home. It also becomes quite clear that his wife disapproves of his attitude toward Robert and fails to see how he could be so self-centered. “My wife finally took her eyes off the blind man and looked at me. I had the feeling she didn’t like what she saw. I shrugged” (509)

The other emotion highly present from the beginning is that of the attitude of Robert. We are introduced to what appears to be a quick witted and pleasant man, especially considering the recent death of his wi...


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... point the strong change in interaction between the two characters. The blind man diligently places his hand on that of Carver and they draw, together. The two are intently drawing the cathedral when Robert asks Carver to keep drawing but with his eyes closed too. He obeys and continues this is the climax of the story for Carver now briefly gets a glimpse of what it is like to live with the ailment of blindness. He is temporarily awed at the feeling for it is one he has obviously never experienced. “It’ really something”, he says (515)

Although it took this lesson, Carver now seems to understand, even if only for a fleeting moment, his own prejudice and feels compassionate with Robert. He begins the story with a quick judgment but ends with a lesson that we can all learn from. The two gentlemen appear seemingly different and in the beginning but learn form one another and in the end grow to indeed appreciate one another. It seems ironic though that although Robert rendered the physical ailment, we see Carver too was blind to many things.

Works Cited

Carver, Raymond. "Cathedral." The Harper Anthology of Fiction Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991.


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