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A Change of Heart in Raymond Carver's Cathedral

By KaRsOnS18 Oct 11, 2010 954 Words
Professor Easton
English 1102
22 September 2010
Karson Smith
A Change of Heart in Cathedral
In Raymond Carver’s Cathedral, the main character and narrator is the husband. We do not know his name but he is a vital character nonetheless. In the beginning of the story the husband has a hardened heart towards blind people, particularly Robert, a blind man who is a close friend of the husband’s wife. Over the course of the story the husband has a gradual change of heart towards Robert and blind people in general. In the beginning the Husband makes many snide remarks and sarcastic comments about Robert and blind people. As the story proceeds we see many tell-tale signs of his attitude being softened towards Robert and in some aspects all blind people. Some of these signs include: at the beginning when the husband butters Robert’s bread for him, also in the beginning when he considers that Robert might be tired and asks him if he wants to go to bed and at the end when the husband describes the Cathedral to Robert and they draw together with their eyes closed. All of these subtle niceties show that the husband’s attitude is gradually changing toward Robert; this change of heart leads him to a point where he is able to share an experience with Robert that gives him a small glimpse into the world through a blind person’s eyes. The husband’s experience with Robert allows him to create in his mind a whole new outlook about not only Robert, but all blind people. Many people have lots of stereotypical thoughts about blind people that we’ve created in our minds due to things we have seen on movies, television and in stories. Most of the time when you think of a blind person you think of person who moves slowly, testing each step they take; also you think of someone with dark glasses and usually either a cane or a seeing-eye dog. In the story the Husband has many of these same stereotypical thoughts of Robert before he actually arrives for his visit with the Husband’s wife. We see in the beginning a lot of sarcasm when the husbands speaks of how it must have been for Robert’s wife, to live with a blind man for a husband. One way Carver demonstrates the husband’s sarcasm is when he states “She could, if she wanted, wear green eye-shadow, a straight-pin in her nostril, yellow slacks, and purple shoes, no matter.” (Carver 96) The previously mentioned example is only one of many stated throughout the story. Despite the husband’s sarcastic antics, we see a change of heart slowly start to arise.

The first instance where we see the husband’s attitude start to change is at the beginning of the story. One example is when he begins to help Robert with small tasks such as buttering his bread at dinner. Normally the husband would not see a need to take others feelings into consideration. However in this instance he feels a need to help Robert with this small task due to his physical inability. Another example is when he asks Robert if he is tired and would like to go to bed. Normally the husband would not take into consideration anyone else’s comfort but his own, however he feels the need to assist Robert in this instance. Both of these examples show that the husband’s feelings about Robert are starting to change an he’s moving from being sarcastic about the whole situation to mildly interested in Robert and his take on things. Despite all of the small changes, and exceptions of Robert as a person, there is still one major even that is the pivotal point in the story concerning the husband’s change of heart. The pivotal point in the husband’s gradual change of heart towards Robert is at the end of the story. Towards the end of the story when they are watching the show about Cathedrals, there is a moment of silence on the program that goes on and on until the husband breaks and starts describing the cathedrals to Robert in great detail. You can tell the husband feels sorry for Robert because he can’t see it, but he is helping Robert to understand the pictures he is seeing rather than being distant and sarcastic about it. As soon as they start drawing the cathedral the husband begins to realize exactly what Robert sees as a blind person. While they are drawing Robert tells the husband to close his eyes as they continue to draw, this is the pivotal moment in the story where the husband finally gets a glimpse of life through Robert’s eyes. All the little favors that the husband has done for Robert leads up to this point. As the husband finally realizes what he was missing all along about Robert; Robert is a normal person just like any of us. However in some ways Robert could be considered extraordinary due to his physical detriment. When they are finished and Robert asks about the picture, the husband says to Robert with his eyes closed, “It’s really something.” (103) The husband has finally reached the realization point, blind people are not handicapped. In many ways the blind are more appreciative of many things those of us blessed with seeing take for granted, life’s simple wonders. As the husband says, life, “It’s really something.” (103)

Works Cited
Kennedy, X. J., and Dana Gioia. Literature: an Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 11th ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2010. Print.

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