Cathedral And Myth Of The Cave Essay

, Research Paper

Plato?s ?Myth of the Cave? and Carver?s Cathedral provide insight into

parallel words. The protagonists in each story are trapped in a world of

ignorance because each is comfortable in the dark, and fearful of what knowledge

a light might bring. They are reluctant to venture into unfamiliar territory.

Fortunately the narrator in the Cathedral is forced by circumstances to take a

risk. This risk leads him into new world of insight and understanding. The

narrator in ?The Cathedral? begins the story with the issue of hesitation in

seeing the light. The light in this story just like the light in Plato?s

?Myth of the Cave? represents reality. The narrator expresses the fear of

expressing reality when he said ? I wasn?t enthusiastic about his visit. He

was no one I knew. And his being blind bothered me. My idea of blindness came

from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed.

Sometimes they were led by seeing eye-dogs. A blind man in my house was not

something I look forward to?. (Page 98). The narrator felt that being blind

was like being in a type of prison and the preconceived notion of

self-imprisonment was frightening to him. He felt that blindness was exactly

like being a prisoner in Plato?s Cave, a scary world where no light ever

penetrated. Unfortunately, the husband is imprisoned in his own ignorance. His

view of blindness had come from Hollywood?s portrayal of blind people. As far

as he is concerned, his situation is completely normal. He knows there are lots

of people just like him. In ?The Cathedral? the extent of the husband?s

ignorance or naivetй is extremely irritating. When his wife tells him the

beautiful story of the blind man?s romantic relationship with his wife Beulah,

all he could think of is ? What a pitiful life this woman must have led.

Imagine a woman who could never see herself as she was seen in the eyes of her

loved one. A woman who could on day after day and never see the smallest

compliment from her beloved. A woman whose husband could never read the

expression on her face, be it misery or something better?. (Page 100). But the

blind man had sight in the form of intuitiveness. This sight gave him greater

vision than the sighted man. The blind man had a sense of and source of reality

in the truth and strength of the relationship. This man was unlike the prisoners

in the cave. The humans in the cave had no such reality. No love warmth or human

contact. The prisoners in the cave had no knowledge of those things. The fire

and the shadow provided the only reality for them. This was their source of

knowledge and their source of contact with the world. For these people their

?cave life? and their ignorance created a world worse than the blind

man?s. Unknown to the prisoners in the cave an elevated causeway crosses

through the cave. The prisoners do not know where this road will lead them. In

Carver?s ?Cathedral?, the narrator did not realize that the blind man was

in his ?causeway? out of ignorance. He did not realize that the simple act

of his wife inviting the blind guest would lead to major new discoveries about

himself and his ignorance. The narrator?s wife has been exposed to knowledge,

which is what Robert represents in this story, for many years. She was more

aware of the world because of her relationship with Robert. This exposure was

instrumental in presenting her husband with a learning opportunity. Her husband

was given the opportunity to see the light. This was territory into which he

would have never ventured on his own. His fears from his own cave prevented such

risky behavior. This was opportunity for him to learn, grow, and develop in a

myriad of ways. He would gain in his relationship with his wife. He would gain

new insights about himself, and most of all he would gain knowledge that would

pull him out of his own cave. The narrator saw the blind man ?drink? and

?smoke cigarette down to the nubbin?. He saw the blind man ?enjoy dope and

whiskey?. These glimpses of reality opened his life as he made discoveries

that risk enhanced his life-risk did not detract from it. The prisoners in

Plato?s Cave do not realize that reality is as near as the causeway out of the

cave. They do not know that they must take risk to gain knowledge. They are

comfortable in the mistaken belief of what reality is because the fire is their

only source of knowledge about the world. In Carver?s Cathedral, the narrator

is enlightened by Robert?s capabilities ?We sat down at the table for

dinner. We dug in. We ate everything there was to eat on the table. We ate like

there was no tomorrow. We didn?t talk. We ate. We scarfed. We grazed that

table. We were into serious eating. The blind man had right away located his

foods; he knew just where everything was on his plate. I watched with admiration

as he used his knife and fork on the meat. He?d cut two pieces of meat, fork

the meat into his mouth, and then go all out for the scalloped potatoes, the

beans next, and then he?d tear off a hunk of buttered bread and eat that.

He?d follow this up with a big drink of milk. It didn?t seem to bother him

to use his fingers once in a while, either?. (Page 102). Curiously, the final

insight for the husband comes when he closes his eyes in order to imagine and

draw the cathedral. ?Close your eyes now, the blind man said to me. I did it.

I closed them just like he said. Are they closed? He said. Don?t fudge. They

are closed, I said. Keep them that way, he said. He said, don?t stop now.

Draw. So we kept on with it. His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over

the paper. It was nothing else in my life up to now. Then he said, I think

that?s it. I think you got it, he said. Take a look. What do you think? But I

had my eyes closed. I thought I would keep them that way for a little longer. I

thought it was something I ought to do. Well, he said. Are you looking? My eyes

were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But, I didn?t feel like I

was inside anything. It?s really something I said?. (Page 108). By becoming

blind he sees clearly how the blind man?s world really is. Being temporarily

blind opens his eyes to the world around him. He can understand the handicap,

with understanding comes compassion, and the compassion has caused him to

develop new insight into the world around him. Interaction with the blind man

has allowed him to see, and has removed him from his own personal cave.


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