The Blind Men of Carver's Cathedral

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The Blind Men of Carver’s Cathedral

A person’s ability to see is often taken for granted. This is certainly the case for the narrator in "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver, for surely only someone who did not take sight for granted, would feel so strongly about those who are sightless. But sometimes blind doesn’t just mean without sight. Sometimes blind can be a metaphor; an indication of a far more serious weakness.
Although the title suggests that the story is about a cathedral, it is really about two men who are, in one way or another blind. One of these men is Robert; a friend of the narrator’s wife. Robert cannot see; he is physically blind. The other is the narrator-husband whose eyes work fine (he sees a great many things, in fact). The husband, however, is also blind, only his blindness lies in the fact that he is emotionally blocked, irrational in thought and more than a little limited in his perception.
Carver deftly describes the way the husband looks at life: from a very narrow-minded point of view. Two instances in particular illustrate this. The first is that the husband seems to believe that the most important thing to women is being complimented on their looks; the second is that he is unable to imagine Robert as a person, only as a blind man.

Carver consistently characterizes the husband as the genuine blind man of the two, expressing through his narrative that he is ignorant of so many simple things in life. One of the first hints of the husband’s blindness is addressed early in the story when the husband thinks about the blind man’s wife and thinks,

Imagine a woman who could never see herself as she was 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.

The husband seems to be saying that women need to be

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