Cathedral Essay

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“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver
“Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.”
Shirley MacLaine, American actress

Fear is often synonymous with prejudice. Fear of what we don't understand can make it appear as something other than what it actually is. We fear the dark because we don't know what's in it. Our own imagination creates dangers and terrors. It makes us see, hear and feel things that do not exist, when, in reality, the darkness holds nothing but empty air. In Raymond Carver's short story “Cathedral”, the main character is confronted with one of his fears. Namely the fear of those who are different from him. His fear and unease of conversing with a blind man are unravelled and, in the end, thrown away to be replaced by a dawning realization that there is nothing to be afraid of. Judging from the story's main character's introductory inner monologue, (“His wife had died. So he was visiting the dead wife’s relatives in Connecticut.” p. 1 l. 2-3) the story “Cathedral” takes place in The United States of America, presumably somewhere in New England. Since the story was written in 1986 and there are no obvious clues that it takes place at any other time, we can reasonably presume that it does, indeed, take place in the 1980s. The milieu is not described in explicit details, but taking into account that they own luxury items like a colour Television (“My dear, I have two TVs. I have a colour set and a black-and-white thing, and they're always turned on.” p. 4 l. 105-106), it does not seem far-fetched to assume that the characters in the story are middle class. At the beginning of the story, the main character, whose name we never learn, has an extremely negative view towards his wife’s former employer. He is extremely suspicious and judgemental, both calling the blind man pathetic (“I'm imagining now. Pathetic.” p. 2, l. 44) and fearing that he and his wife are much too close for comfort (“On her last day, the blind man asked if he could touch...
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