In Raymond Carver?s ?Cathedral?, the conventional ideas often associated with blindness and sight are challenged. By juxtaposing his two male characters, Carver is able to effectively explore sight and its seemingly simplistic relationship with learning and knowledge. As well, he addresses the barriers imposed by the human tendency to rely on vision as the sole means of experiencing the world.
At the beginning of the story, the narrator?s perception on blind people as individuals who ?moved slowly and never laughed? reflect not only his but also the views generally shared by society (720). The uneasiness experienced by the narrator at the prospect of ?[a] blind man in [his] house? is a representation of the prejudices and fears that we often face when exposed and forced to deal with strange and foreign things (720). Blindness seems especially abnormal to us because vision plays such a heavy role in our everyday ?normal? lives; not seeing equates to not being able to truly understand and experience the beauties of life. Just knowing that the blind man had a wife who he ?lived, worked, slept [with]?had sex?and then bur[ied]. All without having ever seen what the goddamned woman looked like? baffles the narrator (722). ?It [is] beyond [his] understanding? how anyone can exist in such an incomplete existence and thus is much deserved of his pity (722). As the story progresses the narrator finally meets the blind man who is introduced to him as Robert?before this, the speaker merely refers to Robert as ?the blind man?. The establishment of ?Robert? who ?didn?t use a cane and didn?t ware dark glasses? surprised him?going against the conventions that he had always believed; seeing this b...
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..., only through his forced interaction with Robert and his blindness is he able to close his eye and open up his mind. This awakening reveals to him a form of communication, experience and expression that cannot just be seen.
In the end it is ironic that even though the narrator was attempting to teach Robert something it was the he who seemed to gain the most from the experience. The blind man and their drawing of the Cathedral are able to defy his previous conceptions of life and thus open a vast array of new possibilities. We are left wondering how much more the narrator learned about himself and about human communication than the blind man has learnt about cathedrals.
Carver, Raymond. Cathedral. The Norton Introduction
Jerome Beaty and J. Paul Hunter. Seventh Edition. New York: WW Norton
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