Prompt #2: How does point of view in “Cathedral” determine the plot?
What it means to “see” another frequently depends on the maturity level of the viewer. This point is powerfully made by Raymond Carver in his short story “Cathedral” about a man who is navigating life “blind”, despite having normal vision. Carver tells his story using the husband’s point of view as the husband meets his wife’s long time friend, Robert, a man who , despite being physically blind, sees life clearly. The point of view in “Cathedral” greatly determines the plot of the story by showing how the husband is really the blind person instead of Robert—an epiphany which would not have been as powerful should it have been developed through the point of view of that of the wife or Robert.
As the narrative progresses it becomes apparent that the husband is self-centered and jealous. One example of this is when the husband refers to his wife’s first husband as “…the childhood sweetheart…” who “first enjoyed her favors” and wonders peevishly “what more [the first husband wanted].” That the current husband has difficulty seeing anything beyond surface features reveals his own shallowness. He refers to his wife’s friend as just “the blind man” whose visit will be an inconvenience to him, never asking himself why his own wife values the friendship so highly nor considering how he himself might be able to alleviate the man’s suffering at the loss of his wife. The husband is blind; his vision is self-focused and does not penetrate the surface of anything or anyone. Another example of the husbands bleak connection and blindness to the world is revealed when he is asked to describe the Cathedral, and he finds himself unable to give more than a rudimentary description, saying “The truth is, cathedrals don’t mean anything special to me. Nothing” and apologizing for his inability to describe it beyond its size. Using the husband as narrator allows the author to subtly expose not...
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