Cathedral Essay, Research Paper
The Blind can See
The narrator in Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” has two fully functional eyes, in which he chooses never to use to their full potential. The eyes of the narrator are biased, insecure, jealous, and very limited in what they choose to see. This inability to see is made apparent when he is forced to meet and converse with a blind man. The narrator’s perception of the world around him, and blurred vision, is resolved by a great irony in the story when Roger helps the narrator see past his prejudice outlook on life. The blind man teaches the narrator how to see.
The first few pages of the story reveal the narrator’s blurred view of his own life, his wife’s life, and the entire world around him. The narrator, “Bub”, seems to have an unhappy and insecure approach to everyday life. The narrator’s blurred view of everything that happened in his wife’s past life, shows the insecurity that plagues him. When referring to his wife’s ex-husband he says, “Her officer- why should he have a name? He was the childhood sweetheart, and what more does he
Want? -”(P721). By treating everyone generically and denying their importance, the narrator is trying to make himself seem more important in the lives of others. He simply calls his wife’s first husband “the officer”(P720) or “the man”(P720). His refusal to even use his wife’s name while narrating as well as constantly referring to Robert as the “the blind man”(P720) shows that he has decided to block out the importance of the people around him. He is even less considerate of Roberts wife, whom he refers to as “Beulah, Beulah”(P721). The narrator chooses not to see everyone around him as individuals, but as a whole group. A group he is scared to look at. The narrator’s feelings toward Robert are of a negative vibe, but it is more than the disability that bothers him. The narrator is first aggravated by the fact that his wife talks of how she allowed Robert to touch her face. “She told me he touched his fingers to every part of her face, her nose- even her neck (P720)! Because of the fact that his wife is so close to Robert, and is so happy in the event of his arrival, “I saw my wife laughing”(P722), “She was still wearing a smile” (P722), it makes it easier for him to judge Robert according to his disability.
The reader first learns of the narrator’s prejudices toward the world around him and especially to the seeing impaired in the introduction of the story. His biased opinion comes out when he explained, “My idea of blindness came from the movies? the blind moved slowly and never laughed”(P720). The narrator’s narrow-minded conclusion brought forth the idea that the blind were no fun, and therefore no good to have around. “A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to”(P720). Another example of how the narrator’s blurred vision affected his train of thought, was when he was trying to imagine what it must have been like for Robert’s wife, Beulah. “? What a pitiful life this woman must have led”(P722). “Pathetic”(P722). The reader also catches a sense of jealousy coming from the narrator, directed toward the relationship Robert and his wife have. The fact that they were talking about him behind his back really agitated this jealousy. “I heard my own name in the mouth of this stranger, this blind man I didn’t even know”(P721)! The degree of jealousy rose to its highest when Robert first arrived, “My wife finally took her eyes off the blind man and looked me. I had the feeling she didn’t like what she saw” (P723).
The story contains a great irony that brings about a revelation for the narrator. Robert helps the narrator find the ability to let go of his prejudices, jealousies and expand his limitations. The blind man helps the narrator to see. The narrator’s revelation is brought about by the experience of drawing the cathedral with Robert. In drawing the cathedral together, the narrator opens up to new possibilities: “Never thought anything like this could happen in your lifetime, did you bub? Well, it’s a strange life, we all know that”(P729). This quote shows the narrators limited view on life. By drawing the cathedral with Robert, the narrator’s views are expanded and he experiences a revelation. The narrator realizes that he must let go of his insecurity and mental acts of jealousy.
The limitations that were holding the narrator back were abolished through a process from which a blind man, in some sense, cured a physically healthy man. The blind man cured the narrator of these limitations, and opened him up to a whole world of new possibilities. Robert enabled the narrator to view the world in a whole new way, a way without the heavy weights of prejudice, jealousy, and insecurity holding him down. The blind man shows the narrator how to see.