Among the humanely emotions people go through, whether willingly or not, misunderstanding a person, an idea, even a single concept, often leads to cynicism, anger, and an overwhelming desire to rid of it in one's life. Two clear examples of fictional characters who exhibit this are the nameless narrator from Raymond Carver's “Cathedral”, and the villainous killer, named the Misfit, from Flannery O'Connor's “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. Both of these men misunderstand the elements around them and are greatly disturbed by them, thus it leads them to have a warped sense of reality and in turn a twisted personality. However where the Misfit remains static and unyielding, Carver devotes the entire narrative showing that people can in fact change when informed properly of what it is that they fail to grasp. The phenomena of people fearing what they don't understand is particularly shown through the aforementioned characters, “Cathedral's” Narrator and the, seemingly psychotic, Misfit of “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. To compare them both would be to say that they both are greatly depraved of knowledge and understanding, on the other hand, the Narrator shows that it is not a one-way street and that there is the chance of perceiving what it is that confuses oneself. The Misfit however remains adamant and strict in his believes.
The Narrator of Carver's “Cathedral” starts off the narrative as a disgruntled man who is none too eager to please his wife's desire to shelter a blind man, a friend, named Robert. Simply because he fails to have, or even seek out, the knowledge and truth behind being blind. He is in fact instantly put down by his wife's gesture, “They made tapes and mailed them back and forth. I wasn't enthusiastic about his visit.” (Carver 32) The Misfit in turn is completely oblivious to putting aside thinking that wanton killing is a satisfactory way to give his life meaning. He is a man who is in constant thought of life's true meaning, and like anyone, he fails to adjust his way of life has taken a turn for the worst. Even when approached by an individual with self-induced self-righteousness, he is unyielding and refuses to change his ways. The two men are 'stuck in their ways' as the saying goes and both are unwilling to acknowledge that. They are also both victims of misinformation, the Narrator says that the only representation of a blind-addled person comes from films and television, “In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed.” (Carver 33). The Misfit, more dramatically misinformed, in that he claims that he was not the guilty party and that no one has ever fully discussed why it was he who was punished for his father's death. “It was a head-doctor at the penitentiary said what I had done was kill my daddy but I known that was for a lie. My daddy died in nineteen ought nineteen of the epidemic flu and I never had a thing to do with it.” (O'Connor 407). While the Narrator takes a fictional account to be reality, the Misfit finds reality to be skewed by a potentially fictional account. This leads both of the men to be twisted and to lack the urge of finding the truth. However, unlike the Misfit, the Narrator is guided through a series of events that leads him to become a much more understanding person where the Misfit views it all as a lost cause and refuses the call for help.
In contrast, the Narrator takes a journey throughout “Cathedral” that changes his perspective on his close-mindedness. Through the aid of Robert, he begins to understand just how warped his entire perception of blind men and women is. Compared to the Misfit, who makes no such effort, even when the chance is right in front of him. The symbolism that is present in both narratives shows this, a cathedral in of itself is a place of forgiveness and purity, a state that the narrative may find himself in because of his willingness to change. But, the cold-blooded killer is constantly clad in black, even to driving a car that is black in color. “It was a big black battered hearselike automobile.” (O' Connor 403) Black is dark, and unchanging, one can never add anything to make it not so, just as the grandmother finds that she cannot convince the Misfit to change his warped view of the world. O'Conner chooses not to place the narrative in this man's perspective, to show just how intimidating a twisted point of view can be. Compare this to Carver's choice of having the narrator take the spotlight so the reader can join him on the journey of reformation, and experience how a person can in fact change. The inner monologue of the narrator even willingly keeps his eyes closed, “I thought I'd keep them that way for a little longer. I thought it was something I ought to do.” (Carver 44). But the Misfit refuses the call of 'atonement', “ 'She would have been a good woman... if it had been somebody to shoot her every minute of her life.' ” (O' Conner 409), even after being subjected to a person who is willing to show him the way, much like Robert shows the Narrator. In conclusion, both of these individuals are given the chance to better themselves and to open their metaphorical arms to a better way of thinking. One of which chooses to embrace it, the other in the end, fails to see the problem with his line of thinking going so far as to murder the individual that would have enabled the change.
In the end, both O'Connor and Carver paint a vivid picture of an individual whose life experiences have led them to a bigoted, and in turn homicidal in the case of the Misfit, point-of-view. The characters traits are similar, but the true lesson learned is that people can in fact change while others refuse any adjustment. A reader can easily dislike the Narrator and the Misfit, for they are two men whose life has been riddled with bigotry and a complete lack of sympathy or understanding. O'Conner depicts a character who acknowledges that he may be a lost cause, especially in his own mind. “ '...I call myself the Misfit,' he said, 'because I can't make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment.'” However through the use of first-person perspective, Carver illustrates an individual's journey into becoming more open and accepting of what one fails to understand, clearly illustrated when the Narrator tells the audience “It was like nothing else in my life up to now.” (Carver 44) this is O'Conner however paints the reader a picture of someone who has gone too far and has little to no hope of recovery. Through the eyes of someone else, the grandmother in this case, the reader can see how intimidating and frightening approaching someone who is unwilling to open their eyes can be. In conclusion the two characters are severely warped as their personalities go, the reader can see the steps taken by the Narrator to rid himself of the bigotry, where as the Misfit is a broken man, whose decisions in life only have led to a single line of thought.