Raymond Carver's Cathedral

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In Raymond Carver's short story, "Cathedral", we follow along with the narrator as he unknowingly describes his own prejudice , in which he is kept from appreciating more than can be seen and ultimately begins to understand that he is the one who is blind and unfulfilled through his interaction with a blind man. The metaphors of the bound men, found in Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave", can be related to the ignorance and prejudice of the unfulfilled narrator of "Cathedral", as the bound men suffer from a literal blindness and the narrator of "Cathedral" suffers from a metaphorical blindness, both of which will keep them from the truth and skew their perception of reality. Carver uses jealousy, prejudice, and substance abuse to develop a character, similar to the bound prisoners, that is devoid of self-fulfillment and figuratively blind in his relationship with the world around him.

The jealous nature of the narrator begins immediately in the story and continues throughout. This jealous attitude against the blind stranger is pervasive and he cannot begin to understand the qualities in the relationship between his wife and the blind man or why his wife has continued this friendship. As the narrator describes what lead to the meeting between the blind man and his wife, he purposefully omits the name of her ex-husband asking, "why should he have a name?" implying that this man also does not matter (Carver 356) . His emphasis is placed on the final experience that his wife had with the blind man, almost insinuating that their relationship may have passed beyond friendship. It is not until the end of the story that the narrator no longer fears the relationship of Robert with his wife. The narrator's wife is asleep in her robe,...

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...on to the qualities that he is trying to translate. His vision to the literal world around him has failed him; he now has to resort to the blind man's language of touch. Through the interaction of touching hands and drawing the cathedral, the narrator's blindness is revealed and he no longer feels bound by his world.

Carver uses the themes of jealousy, prejudice, and substance abuse, not only because most readers can easily associate with one or more of these problems, but also because they can be used to create a character that is ignorant of and detached from the world around them. This blindness to reality can be related to Plato's "Allegory of a Cave", where the prisoners are limited in their world to only what they can easily view. Reality may not be just what is presented to us as there can exist a world that is unseen by many.
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