Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” vs. Tess Gallagher’s “Rain Flooding Your Campfire”

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Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” and Tess Gallagher’s “Rain Flooding your Campfire” are good examples of intertextual dialogue between two writers. These two stories show us how two writers can grow and develop short stories differently from the same experience. There are similarities between the stories, such as the use of a first person narrator, the plot, setting, and also there is an interchange between the narrator and the blind man in both stories. But within these similarities there are also differences; the narrators are two different people with two very different views on the situation, and although there is an interchange between the characters they are two different types with two different messages. Gallagher’s story is a touching retelling of her visit with a friend from her past while Carver’s version of this encounter has a more generalizable and important meaning which expresses a larger cultural concern of prejudice against different people.

Both stories have a first person narrator, but they are different people. The husband is the narrator in Carver’s story while the wife is the narrator in Gallagher’s version. The narrator in “Cathedral” makes his ill feeling towards the blind man made quite obvious to the reader by saying “his being blind bothered me” (Carver pg. 20) and “A blind man in my house was not something I was looking forward to” (pg. 21). The narrator had never known a blind person before, and his “idea of blindness came from the movies” (pg. 20), where they are normally portrayed as weak, slow and a burden. So the narrator’s views of a blind person are how society and the media has depicted them, and so this is how most people who haven’t met a blind person would think of them. But as the story goes on the narrator finds himself to be quite comfortable with this man and in the end they draw a picture together. This is evident when the narrator says “His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper” (pg. 30). The narrator who had previously referred to this man’s eyes as “Creepy” (pg. 24) was now embracing him and holding hands as they draw a picture together. In Gallagher’s story the narrator has a much stronger connection to the blind man and recounts some of her past with him and gives us more insight into their relationship and how they “edged into friendship” (Gallagher pg. 160). Though Gallagher’s narrator doesn’t touch as much on the prejudices about the blind man, it does mention how her husband “was not thrilled to have a blind man in his house” (pg. 165). The narrator is more concerned with the blind man’s feelings in Gallagher’s version of the story than the issue of her husband’s preconceived notion about the blind man. Furthermore, the way that the blind man is portrayed in the story as constantly needing help from the narrator or other characters substantiates the view of blind people as being helpless.

The plot in both stories is similar but they do differ as Carver decided to leave out or change certain details that were not as pertinent to the overall meaning of his story. The parts that Gallagher decides to share add more to her telling of the story and the interaction between her and the blind man but add nothing to the main theme that Carver’s version creates.

The majority of both stories take place in the narrators home with the exception of the flash backs in both stories and the train station and a dinner party in Gallagher’s rendition. Gallagher adds a part where they travel together to a co-worker’s house for a dinner party and the blind man interacts with some of the characters there. The interaction between the blind man and these characters at the dinner adds to the emotional involvement, but still does not build on the theme in Carver’s story. Carver manages to leave out these other characters and the entire event of the dinner party but still accomplishes to get his theme across to the reader.

Within both stories the blind man...
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