In the story “Cathedral”, by Raymond Carver, the narrator is conflicted with issues of inner-demons that are manifested in a blind man whom he perceives as a danger to his marriage. The narrator in this story is a good example of an anti-hero showing negative characteristics while never actually being a bad guy. This gives the idea that he is very humanistic character. That being said, he is a flawed character who is just trying to please his wife while not giving up what he wants. In the end he realizes that he can have both revealing a very enlighten experience. Over the entire story the narrator is confronted with different moments that gradually alters his perspective and changes him for the better.
When we first meet the narrator he is fearful of his new visitor and what it will do to his family and shows that he does not have very good feelings towards this blind man. The narrator immediately lets us know where he stands by saying “I wasn’t enthusiastic about his visit… And his being blind bothered me.” (Carver 106). This statement shows a great deal of ignorance in the character and a good sense of short-sighted views.
However, he goes to stress that “[His] idea of blindness came from the movies.”. He uses the pop cultural reference to blind people to excuse his ignorance, but all he shows to the audience is that he knows only of fictional blind people and has to base his opinion on his visitor from that (Carver 106). With him being a honest character, he does reveal what is truly bothering him is his jealousy of Robert, but initially this information is clouded by the narrator’s obsession with Robert’s blindness. From that we can actually come out and say that the narrator is blind in the beginning of the story, and he’s the one that can’t see who Robert is. He even tells us that he has no real understanding of his wife when he mentions her poetry “I didn’t think much of the poem. Of course, I didn’t tell her that.” even though he recognizes that she writes a poem “After something really important happened to her” (Carver 106, 107).
However, when it comes to being a husband the narrator is extremely grounded in it. He is always focused on his wife, and even though it is not his ideal of a perfect marriage he does seem to love and admire his wife as if it was. He is capable of telling us a lot of details about his wife without ever calling her out or even trying to persuade us to dislike her. His love for her makes it possible for the narrator to get past his dislike of Robert, and allow him to stay in his house. Even after all the dislike he shares with us in the very beginning of the story.
He comes into the kitchen to talk to his wife, and tries his best to be a nice guy about the topic of the blind guest which is a much different view from earlier. This persuades us to look at the narrator in his wife’s perspective, even though we have knowledge that she doesn’t about the narrators anxiety over Robert. Another large detail we have over the wife is that the narrator is jealous of Robert and is just using his blindness as a scapegoat. However, even though this extreme case of jealousy is unhealthy for their relationship, the narrator, in his own way, tells his wife he loves her. When his wife tells him “If you love me… you can do this for me. If you don’t love me, okay.” he does exactly that and tries to make Robert comfortable (Carver 107).
Once Robert arrives some, of the narrators assumptions about blind people are broke down immediately like when he mentions “He didn’t use a cane and he didn’t wear dark glasses. I always though dark glasses were a must for the blind.” (Carver 109). He actually admits that the one thing he thought he knew about blind people was wrong too when he says “I remembered having read somewhere that the blind didn’t smoke because, as speculation had it, they couldn’t see the smoke the exhaled. But this blind man smoked his cigarette down to the nubbin and then lit another one.” so now we can assume that many of the misconceptions that the narrator had about the blind have disappeared and that he starting to open his eyes more now (Carver 110).
After meeting Robert, and having dinner with him, our narrator is forced to revoke many of his diluted ideas of blind people and become more aware his jealousy of Robert. After dinner, when they return back to the living room, the narrator listens to his wife and Robert talk. He show us that he is still worried about being forgotten by saying, “Now and then I joined in. I didn’t want him to think I’d left the room, and I didn’t want her to think I felt left out.” and even remind us of his jealously towards Robert (Carver 110). He mentions how he was waiting that entire time to be mentioned by his
wife but all they were talking about was themselves.
The most important changes happen to the narrator when the wife is removed from the picture, once the wife goes up stairs and disappears for awhile, the narrator feels obligated to talk with Robert and to describe what is on television. This is a monumental experience for the narrator because he gets to confront Robert on how he feels about his blindness, and the way Robert deals with it. He asks if Robert has any clue about what a cathedral looks like, if he would know the difference between it or any other structure. He attempts to tell Robert about it, but in the end admits “I can’t tell you what a cathedral looks like. It just isn’t in me to do it I can’t do anymore that I’ve done” here he admits that all he can really do is explain physical appearances that he lacks the ability to define anything on any other level (Carver 114). We can get the sense that Robert already knew that so he asks him to get some paper and pen so they can draw one.
The actual drawling of the cathedral is the most evolving point for the narrator’s character. Through this moment, the narrator understands that Robert and his wife are just friends, and they share a good friendship. Through the picture the narrator realizes that he has been blind to many things in his life. Robert has essentially opened the narrators heart and has allowed him to experience an moment outside the physical world the narrator actually comes out and says “My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything.” (Carver 115). Once the picture is finished Robert asks him to open his eyes, and take a look at what he has drawn. The narrator keeps his eyes closed shut and tell Robert that the picture looks wonderful revealing that now he can actually see without seeing.
Through out the entire story the narrator is on a road of self-awareness and change. In the beginning, he confronts his jealousy even though it is distorted through his dislike of “blind” Robert. In addition, he admits he loves his wife and would do anything for her, and does so by bonding with a close friend of hers.
Through watching Robert and his wife he learns about things he’s seen or read won’t always be true. He breaks away from the stereotypes he has set for blind people, and now knows that there is much more than just the surface of people. He even turns what he thought an enemy of his marriage to an ally to possible help settle future or even current issues in their marriage. From being a self center jerk, he has turned into a more enlightened person who now can share personal things with those who are dear to him. Through the entirety of the story the narrator faces issues that have been eating at him, only to make him a stronger person and change his way of thinking for the better.
Carver, Raymond. ” Cathedral.” Kennedy, X.J., and Dana Gioia, eds. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, poetry, and drama. 12th ed. New York: Longman, 2012. 106+. Print.