The Cathedral by Raymond Carver
Raymond Carver, the author of Cathedral was born in Oregon in 1938.He came from a poor family.At the age of 40 he was one of the most promising writers of his generation and was also near ruin in everyway from alcoholism.
He quit drinking but lung cancer took over- taking his life at the age of 50. He wrote 3 collections of stories: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”,“ Cathedral” and “Elephant”, poems and essays. He was considered a minimalist until Cathedral where he started changing his style.
Cathedral like many of Carver’s other stories portray individuals isolated from each other for a variety of reasons. In this story he creates a realistic human picture. He wants us to see the narrator’s character as figuratively blind. By the title we think the story is about a cathedral, but it is really about two man who are blind, on physically and the other psychologically.
The Narrator looks at life from a very narrow-minded point of view, for example he seems to believe that the most important thing to women is being complimented on their looks: second he is unable to imagine his wife’s friend as a person, only as a blind man. The narrator does not understand that what blind people cannot see they can experience by feeling and hearing. He does not see what is underneath the skin or what is behind a face. He sees people and things at face value. In Contrast, the blind man sees things with his ears, his hands and his heart.
As the story opens the narrator gives a short background about his wife and the blind man’s relationship. We can sense his disgust and unwillingness to understand what it is like to be blind. He feels threatened by the blind man.
This story shows that you don’t have to see someone or something in order to appreciate them for who or what they are. This story does follow typical dramatic development, which helps develop the theme.
In the beginning, Carver, gives you an idea of what type of characters you are working with. He then forms the rising action with conversation among the 3 characters. The climax is when Robert, the blind man, and the narrator begin to draw the Cathedral together, two hands moving together- one guided by sight the other not, which lead us to the resolution of how the narrator becomes changed and learns a valuable lesson, which is overall the theme of the story.
Several things bring out the theme:
One is the point of view from which the story is told. The narrator talks from a first person point of view. Throughout the story he describes people by their outer appearance. He is amazed that the blind man has a beard. He only sees people for what they are outside, but is blind to appreciate the true beauty of a person’s inner self. You begin to understand this better when he goes to Pray” Pray that the phone wont ring and the food doesn’t get cold”. Prayers normally are said to show appreciation to all that God has blessed us with. He prays in a cold type of way because he cannot believe in God if he does not appreciate the beauty of ones inner self, including the soul.
The characterization of the story brings out the message too. There are 3 characters: Robert, The blind friend of the wife, who is the most important character. Unlike the narrator Robert can’t physically see, but has a clear vision of appreciating the person’s true inner self. “Talking about the miserable life the blind man’s wife must have had”. These two characters are complete opposites. The narrator cant understand that Robert probably loved his wife deeply for the person she was inside.
The setting also plays a big part in the theme, because tells you about the characters personalities. Once again the narrator describes everything in great detail. Like the part where they are getting ready to watch the tape Robert sent. This shows us the type of character he is.
There are two symbols in this story: the cathedral and Robert’s inability to see. The Cathedral is important because even though Robert has never seen the building he still knows the true and special meaning behind it.
The narrator starts to change his attitude towards Robert at dinner, when he watches Robert use his fork and knife on the meat. This is when the narrator starts to see Robert for who he is inside instead of just seeing his handicap. At the end the narrator fully appreciates Robert when he learns the valuable lesson: that you don’t have to literally see someone to know how beautiful a person truly is. “Like the saying says: to never judge a book by its cover”.
Cathedral ends with hope, although there is no proof that the narrator will overcome his isolation, for the moment he is in communion with himself and another human being.
Robert teaches the narrator to imagine and feel like a blind man. The story is about one man’s prejudice which is overcome by another man’s gift.
This story is about revelation and prejudice, but has a unfolding of marital drama. The story tells of how a close outside friendship can threaten marriage by provoking insecurities, creating feelings of invasion of privacy and aggravating communication barriers.
The narrator feels jealous that they talk about everything. He feels left out when his wife and Robert recall the years they spent together. The narrator feels that the visit of the blind man is an invasion of his privacy and to his private relationship with his wife. It seems that the couple has a failure of communication
Most criticism about this story focuses on how Robert helps the narrator overcome his prejudice, but we can to see that in certain marriages “outside relationships” can either cultivate or destroy lives depending on the relationship shared by a married couple. The outside Friendship can threaten a couple by provoking insecurities, creating feelings of invasion of privacy and aggravating communication barriers. Robert here I believe brings the couple’s marital problems up to the surface.
Is Cathedral a religious revelation too?
Movement in art, music, etc. in which only the simplest design, forms, etc, are used often repetiously.