Symbolism In Raymond Carver's 'Cathedral'

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Don’t judge a book by its cover. We have all heard this cliché at least once in our lifetime. But how many times have we ever followed through with this expression? The author Raymond Carver writes about an experience where a couple is visited by the wife’s acquaintance Robert, whose wife has recently passed. The fact that Robert is blind belittles him in the eyes of the narrator, causing tension and misjudgment. In “Cathedral”, Carver uses irony, point of view, and symbolism to show the difference between looking and truly seeing. The irony between Robert and the narrator is that even though Robert is blind, he pays attention to detail without the need of physical vision. Roberts’s relationship with the narrator’s wife is much deeper than what the narrator can understand. Robert takes the time to truly listen to her. “Over the years, she put all kinds of stuff on tapes and sent the tapes off lickety-split. [...] She told him everything, or so it seemed to me” (Carver 124). This demonstrates that the narrator is in fact somewhat jealous of how his wife confides in Robert, but still overlooks the fact that he doesn’t make the slightest effort to pay attention to her. Also the narrator is not precisely blind, but shows a lack of perception and sensitivity that, in many ways, makes him blinder than Robert. Therefore, he has difficulty understanding people’s views and feelings that lie beneath the surface. The point of view from the narrators perspective, highlights how self-absorbed and narrow-minded he is. “They’d married, lived and worked together, slept together—had sex, sure—and then the blind man had to bury her. All this without his having ever seen what the goddamned woman looked like. It was beyond my understanding” (Carver... ... middle of paper ... ...l of open-mindedness. “Cathedral” concerns the change in one man’s understanding of himself and the world. From the start of the story the narrator is restricted in his understanding to accept the blind man just as his wife has. He cannot fully wrap around the idea of what makes Robert so special. Until, that is, that the narrator starts drawing the cathedral which starts off as a house almost, and expands into something grander. This short story allows us to realize that the world is greater and further detailed than what we consider it in our confined minds. And that in fact we should never assume that there is nothing more to what the eye can see. It simply states that we shouldn’t form an opinion on someone or something based only on what you see on the exterior, because usually after taking the time to explore, the person or thing will not be what you expected.

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