Eng. 102 S. Buchanan
“Cathedral” Critical Essay
It is human nature to shy away from social situations that make us uncomfortable. Also, as a people with great pride, we often find it difficult to admit when we have been iniquitous, or to allow ourselves to be open to humbling experiences. Sometimes though, it is not entirely due to intolerance that we allow ourselves to make ill-informed judgments. Raymond Carver was a writer with some insight concerning these very ideas. In his short story, “Cathedral,” Carver uses a nameless narrator and his interactions with a blind man to illustrate how a lack of experience can lead to ignorance and thus prejudice. Through the development of this character, however, Carver explores how exposure, even forced exposure, can lead to a better understanding which can break down the walls of prejudice and ultimately result in tolerance and personal growth.
When we begin this story, Carver uses the inner dialogue of “Bub,” the narrator, to allow the reader some insight into Bub’s character and his vast ignorance of the world outside of his home. Preceding a visit from his wife’s blind friend, Robert, the narrator makes many brash comments that give a sense of his lack of acquaintance with visually disabled people. Bub admits, “And his being blind bothered me. My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed…A blind man in my home was not something I looked forward to.” Although this portrayal of the blind was more stereotypical than accurate, this is all that Bub has witnessed in regards to blindness. Bub uses this depiction as a grounds on which to base his opinion; consequently, he develops a prejudice against the blind. He reiterates his lack of familiarity with sightlessness as his wife tries in vain to coax some empathy out of him directly before Robert’s visit. As Bub and his wife argue about his offensive behavior, his wife begs, “If you...