Discussing roots and culture is often a very subjective topic. Quite often, the same story is interpreted entirely differently, depending on who is telling the story. This principle is also true in fictional works. A narrator will bring his/her own perspective and biases into the events that he or she is telling about. In Raymond Carver’s Cathedral, the first-person narrator has several biases that are used to reveal character. This first-person narrator has both positive and negative biases, and insights that clearly represent his character.
The narrator in Cathedral has biases that serve to create his character well. Some of these are positive, and some are negative. The first clear bias that is made clear is a positive one. In the introduction of the story, as the narrator is giving background information on his wife, he speaks of her first husband. The manner in which he speaks of her impresses upon the reader of how little this first marriage matters to him, and thus shows that he acknowledges his wife has a past, and that he loves her just the same. Carver shows the narrators’ indifference to this first husband when “why should he have a name?” (Responding to Literature, 439) is asked. Another one of the biases the narrator has does not serve to create such a positive picture of him. This negative bias is the narrators’ bias against the blind in the beginning of the story. He speaks of them as very somber, as his idea of blind people was that all the “blind moved slowly and never laughed.” (438) These insights into the mind of the first-person narrator help to establish him as a character.
The use of first-person narration in Raymond Carvers Cathedral serves to establish the narrator as a legitimate character well. The reader is given direct insight into the thoughts of the narrator, which would not be possible from other perspectives. For example, the reader is given a direct path into the narrators’ thoughts of the blind mans’ wife, Beulah. Without the words actually being spoken, the reader knows that the narrator feels sorry for her, without having ever met the blind man. He believes that Beulah must have had a “pitiful life” since she could “never see herself as she was seen in the eyes of her loved one”(440). Wordless insights into thoughts, such as this, are the true point of having a first-person narrator; because not only is the reader given a picture of the narrators’ thoughts, it serves to create a more dynamic, lifelike character, and not merely a lifeless voice that is tediously moving through words.
First-person narration is always all about perspective, and consequently, bias. All first-person narration in fiction is chosen specifically for the purpose of having that bias, and those individual ideas that make for an interesting telling of a story. Raymond Carver’s Cathedral uses the first person narration very well, for that exact purpose. This story’s biases and partialities are used to separate the reader, and only see the narrators’ version of what happened. Had the story been told from the perspective of the blind man, it would have been immensely different. Biases come from ones’ culture and environment. Ideally, stories and retellings of events would be completely honest; but prejudices and tensions gradually become the general theme of the story, to the point that roots, culture, and acceptance thereof become irrelevant, and nothing remains but intolerance.