June 27, 2012
The Cathedral Effect
Emotions are a thing that nobody escapes themselves from, no matter how hard they try. They are something we are born and die with. Emotions are the also a foundation to how we see things. If someone is sad then most of the things they come across will be viewed as sad. Now, if someone is happy or open minded then they will deal with things they come across much better. In Carver’s short story “Cathedral”, the narrator is jealous and bitter. This causes his views to be distorted to something that is not correct. His wife’s friend comes and he is mean and jealous towards him. If the narrator changed his mood, then he would see things in a new better perspective. In “Cathedral”, written by Raymond Carver, the narrator starts off as a bitter man with a bad attitude of mind who changes throughout the story as to have a better attitude which results being more open minded and having a better aspect at life.
At the beginning of the story, the narrator is a jealous and bitter husband. Although he has no reason to as he does not acknowledge his wife very much. The narrator is very lonely, “Every night I smoke dope and stay up as long as I could before I fall asleep.” The narrator could go with his wife instead of staying up all alone. When he does this it only shows how lonely he really is and how much he does not communicate with his wife. Maybe if he talked to her he would understand her and would feel comfortable when her blind friend came to visit. The narrator was not so excited for the visit, “My idea of blindness came from the movies…the blind moved slowly and never laughed…a blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to.” Clearly the narrators perception of blind people is very close minded as he only thought of blind people to fit stereo types. He has no idea what blind people are like and only goes with his own poor judgment. If he changed his attitude towards things like these then maybe he would be able to understand his wife and even the blind man.
Later on in the story he begins to change just slightly. At first when the blind man arrives he only makes rude comments and stares as his wife smiles and interacts with him. Later though he begins to talk with him, “I asked if he wanted to smoke some dope with me.” The narrator invites Robert, the blind man, to smoke with him which is something he usually does by himself. It is not much but it is a step towards getting to know the man. As they smoked, his wife fell asleep and eventually left to sleep in her own bed. Robert and the narrator stayed up and watched television and as they watched it, a Cathedral came up. The narrator tried to explain the cathedral to Robert but failed to do so, “I stared some more at the Cathedral before the picture flipped into the countryside. There was no use.” Although the narrator was sharing thoughts with Robert, it was still not enough. The narrator soon gave up when trying to explain the Cathedral to Robert instead of trying harder to help Robert picture a Cathedral in his mind. He did change his attitude a bit by communicating with Robert, but not enough.
As the story concludes, the narrator has an epiphany. They continue to watch television when the blind man has an idea as to how the narrator could show him how a Cathedral looks like. Robert tells him, “I got an idea. Why don’t you find us some heavy paper? And a pen. We’ll do something. We’ll draw one together.” Robert suggests an activity that will benefit him and the narrator will be helpful. The narrator looks for what Robert requested and comes back after a while so they could do whatever he wants to do. Robert found the narrators hand and they began to draw a Cathedral together. The narrator guides the pen and Robert following along like a shadow. As the narrator was drawing the Cathedral he closed his eyes and thought, “His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing else in my life up to now” This is where the narrators epiphany occurs. He finally sees something differently in life that changes his attitude towards many things. He experienced being blind for once and in a good way not in a bad way. Before he was blind intellectually and as to how people were. Now he was blind physically and it benefited him much more than his useless jealous stereo typical thoughts. All he had to do was experience something that he had no insight towards.
Lots of times humans let their emotions dictate the way they view life. Due to this, we should all try and be content and keep a positive attitude. If we keep a positive attitude then things won’t seem so harsh, miserable, or as lonely. If we have a negative attitude though, then things will be harder for us to understand and harder to interact with all sorts of different people. Sometimes it takes an experience that leads to an epiphany in order to change our attitude in life. In Raymond Carver’s story “Cathedral”, the narrator is a perfect example of someone having an epiphany that changes their attitude and view towards life. There’s always hope for everyone, you just need that extra push to have a better view towards things.