BlindFaith Essay, Research Paper
In the story “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver, the main character, goes through a major personal transformation. At the beginning of the story, his opinions of others are filled with stereotypes, discrimination and prejudice. Through interaction with his wife’s blind friend Robert, his attitude and outlook on life changes. Although at first he seemed afraid to associate with a blind man, Robert’s outgoing personality left him with virtually no choice. During Robert’s visit, he proved to be a normal man, and showed the speaker that by closing his eyes, he could open his mind.
The speaker’s prejudice was nearly overwhelming at the opening of the story. “His being blind bothered me,” he said. “A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to.” He had never really come in personal contact with anyone before who was blind, and seemed to have no idea of what to expect. He admittedly gathered a stereotypical mind set about blind people from movies, assuming they “moved slowly and never laughed.”
The character’s prejudice was also evident when he asked about Robert’s deceased wife. Upon hearing her name Beulah, he asked, “Was his wife a Negro?” Immediately, his wife seemed offended at the question. The paragraphs that follow are important to the story. The speaker informs the readers that his wife told him the story of Robert and
Beulah. He does not, however, reveal whether Beulah was in fact black or otherwise. It seems to foreshadow the speaker’s acceptance of the blind man. The color of Beulah’s skin was not important to Robert, and therefore was not mentioned by the character.
Until he met Robert, the speaker merely referred to Robert as “the blind man,” instead of someone with a name or someone with importance. He did not seem to understand why his wife had kept in touch with Robert, or how they became so close. He also seemed to feel that Robert was a nuisance to society, someone who could not take care of himself. The character spoke of the pity he felt for Beulah because Robert could never see what she looked like, read the expression on her face or receive the smallest compliment from her husband.
When Robert arrived in his house, the speaker began his transformation. It began immediately upon seeing Robert with his wife, his eyes drawn to the smile Robert had placed on her face. The speaker witnessed the depth of conversation Robert had with his wife, as if he wasn’t even in the room, and it seemed to spark some jealousy. Most of the changes that the speaker underwent in his understanding of Robert were because he realized that Robert was “normal.”
The speaker was surprised to see “a beard on a blind man.” He had “always thought dark glasses were a must for the blind,” yet Robert wore none. He had “read the blind didn’t smoke,” but Robert filled ashtray after ashtray in his home. The speaker watched as Robert ate, knowing where everything was on his plate, and being completely self-sufficient. Robert drank Scotch, just like the speaker and his wife. Surprisingly,
Robert could even tell if the TV was color or not.
An unexpected but important part of the story was when the character and Robert “smoked dope” together. The speaker said, “I could tell he didn’t know the first thing.” The speaker showed Robert how to smoke. Although Robert had never smoked before, he gave it a chance. This served as a reason for the character to give Robert a chance and try to relate to him as a person.
It seems as if the author purposely portrayed the main character as somewhat unintelligent or uneducated. He was evidently uneducated about different races and disabilities. The author also deliberately used short sentences with simple words as the character’s language to show his limited skills. He was also portrayed as unworldly when he could not accurately or effectively describe a cathedral for the blind man. Due to this, the character and Robert were proven even more alike. Robert was uneducated about cathedrals because he had never seen one. He had not experienced many everyday things that everyone else had due to his disability. Robert, however, brought the speaker into his world by showing him how to see and discover without his eyes. Soon enough, the character understood the connection his wife had with Robert; by the end of the story, the narrator had created one himself with Robert.
When the story starts, the narrator seems to have almost lived in a shell for the majority of his life. He does not seem to know much about people who are different from himself. If he was exposed to more things during his life, he would not be so naive about common things like blindness and interracial relationships. However because of the way he acts when he hears about the two of them, it is obvious that he has led a sheltered life. But even after his entire life of not understanding what was going on in the world around him, one night with Robert enlightened him and changed his view on people and his surrounding environment.