In 1983, Raymond Carver introduced his short story “Cathedral” to the public. The first-person narrative takes place within the narrator’s home, where his wife is waiting upon the arrival of her blind friend Robert. The narrator, however, becomes more concerned about how Robert’s visit will affect him rather than enjoy the situation. Once Robert arrives, the narrator tries to understand the blind man, but he is unaware of what tasks Robert is capable of performing due to the narrator’s inability to “see”. In time, Robert shows the narrator the difference between looking and seeing through illustrations of a cathedral, drawn by the narrator with his eyes closed. “Cathedral’s” narrator exposes readers to anti-heroic views influenced by his thoughts and actions through the analysis of the story’s theme, symbols, and conflicts.
As readers will obtain, the theme, looking verses seeing, of “Cathedral” becomes a major element towards the narrator’s insulting comments. The narrator clearly shows his capability of looking, through his remembrance of, “having read somewhere that the blind didn’t smoke because, as speculation had it, they couldn’t see the smoke they exhaled. I thought I knew that much and that much only about blind people. But this blind man smoked his cigarette down to the nubbin and then lit another one” (p.86). The narrator’s blindness towards Robert’s capabilities reflects his ignorance of society as well as his corruption from self-absorbency. Later on in the story, Carver creates a situation that allows Robert to encourage the narrator to see beyond the obvious. After a TV show on cathedrals, Robert requests a pen and paper for the narrator to draw upon. The two gentlemen, “kept on with it. His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing else in my life up to now.” (p. 93). The narrator knew the drawing experience was significant, but he does not fully understand the meaning of it. With the theme of...
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