November 21st, 2012
Robert’s effect on the narrator
“The Cathedral” is a short story written in 1963 by Raymond Carver. “The Cathedral” includes three characters: the narrator, the narrator’s wife, and a blind friend of the wife’s, Robert. Robert has an effect on the narrator from the very beginning but the effect changes as the story develops. At the beginning of the story, the narrator is very bitter about his wife’s blind friend. As the story begins to develop the narrator starts to treat Robert, the blind man, with more respect. At the end of the story, the narrator sees Robert in a new light. The blind man helps the narrator see clearly by showing him a different side of life.
The story begins with the narrator talking about receiving a visit from an old, blind friend of his wife’s. The blind man just lost his wife so he contacted the narrator’s wife because she was one of the only ones he kept in contact with. The narrator’s wife worked for the blind man a few years back and they kept in touch through tapes that they mailed back and forth. The narrator was not enthused about the visit at all; he was dull and bitter about the though of the visit. The narrator has unrealistic thoughts about blind people and learned all his knowledge about them from Hollywood movie scenes: “My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed. Sometimes they were led by seeing-eye dogs. A blind man in my house was not Cohoon2
something I looked forward to” (Carver). Clearly, the movies that he had seen did not give him a good representation of how blind people really are. The narrator talked briefly about his wife’s ex-husband but quickly changed the subject. The narrator seems to feel a petty jaundice towards his wife’s ex-husband: “Her officer--why should he have a name? he was the childhood sweetheart, and what more does he want?” (Carver). From this statement it is obvious that the narrator shows jealousy towards other men in his wife’s life. He portrays this jealousy through the visitation of the blind man as well. The narrator’s wife makes a big deal about how important it is that her husband, the narrator, must be on his best behavior and treat her guest with respect. The narrator replies to all her requests with fast, crude remarks such as: “maybe I could take him bowling” and “was his wife a Negro?”(Carver). The swift remarks made the narrator’s wife furious. He was being very inconsiderate to his wife’s friend because the friend was blind. He already seemed to dislike her blind friend before he even met him and was very bitter about the visit.
Before the blind man had arrived, the wife filled the narrator in on how the blind man and his wife, Beulah, had met. Beulah had worked for the blind man one summer and they fell in love. Shortly following the working term, they planned themselves a little church wedding. They were inseparable for eight years but Beulah got sick with cancer. They married, worked and lived together, slept together and now the blind man had to bury her. The narrator was bewildered by how one man can go through all that without had even known what she looked like: “And then I found myself thinking what a pitiful life this woman must have led. Imagine a woman who could never see herself as she was Cohoon3
seen in the eyes of her loved one. A woman who could go on day after day and never receive the smallest compliment from her beloved. A woman whose husband could never read the expression on her face, be it misery or something better. Someone who could wear makeup or not--what difference to him? (Carver, 16). He seemed to feel sympathy for the dead blind man’s wife. He was no longer disrespecting the blind man but thought of him as less capable or less lovable then the narrator himself. When the time came for the wife to go pick up her blind friend the narrator waiting patiently for their return....
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