The story opens with the narrator informing the reader that a blind buddy of his wife, Robert, is coming to pay them a visit. The narrator is apprehensive about the impending visit. The story then flashes back to how the narrator’s wife met Robert when she used to work for him, throughout which time, his wife was engaged to an officer. When she bids farewell to Robert, he requests to touch her face which turns out to be a imperative moment in her life. The wife and Robert albeit having not met in a lengthy while, they had managed to keep in touch. The narrator’s wife informs him that Robert had lost his wife, Beulah, to which he disparages Robert further thinking how pitiful it must have been that Robert couldn’t see Beulah or even compliment her. When Robert arrives, they share dinner together amid conversations that the narrator only occasionally participates. After dinner, they drink much and on thinking that Robert has “run down”, he switches on the television to the dismay of his wife who goes upstairs to change into a robe. They smoke bhang, and afterwards, the woman sleeps leaving the two to converse. The narrator tries to explain to Robert what’s on the television although when a cathedral comes up, he is unable to describe it to Robert distinctly. The narrator is asked by to get a pen and paper. They begin drawing the cathedral together. Later, Robert asks the narrator to shut his eyes and proceed with the drawing. The experience feels amazing as even when Robert asks him to open his eyes, he keeps them closed instead saying that “It’s really something.” The central idea of the story revolves around the epiphany experienced by the narrator based on his figurative blindness to his situations and inconsideration towards other people’s feelings (Clark 105).
The author uses a transcending tone to relay the central idea of the story. At the end of the story, the narrator goes beyond his conceptual field as his inner vision is opened and he can see beyond his egoistic tendencies (Peterson 167). The author depicts that seeing is more than just the act of physical vision and instead, it involves a deeper level of engagement with people’s emotions (Clark 107).
The element of art has for instance been used as a tool to achieve the epiphany of the narrator. Drawing, poetry and storytelling are means through which the characters derived insight and meaning of their varied experiences (Sadeq and Al-Badawi 157). The narrator’s wife, for example, wrote poems to note important life events to her. The narrator dislikes the poems but admits that he might not comprehend them. Drawing the cathedral together with Robert serves as a critical turning point for the narrator as he gains insight emanating from the realisation of how critical it is to look inwards to get the deeper understanding of experiences other than his previous shallow thinking (Sadeq and Al-Badawi 159). Robert too gained insights from the same seeing that he even recounts of the narrator’s new found awakening.
Prejudice and ignorance are thematic elements which have been used to depict how figurative blindness can be detrimental as people tend to make wrong suppositions. These false notions caused by a deficiency of knowledge can, however, be overcome when people choose to treat other with equality (Kita 385). The narrator has a clear bias and perceptions which he claims to have seen in movies. He at one instance, he is even amazed that the blind man could smoke his cigarette “down to the nubbin” (Clark 107). The ignorance depicted by the narrator helps to develop the dramatic tension of the story which is resolved when the narrator ultimately comprehends the limitations of his view points after they draw the cathedral together.
The use of irony and paradox in the short story is also critical in achieving the central idea of the story. The irony is depicted in the character of the narrator who disdains blindness but yet, is not cognizant of his sight limitation (Peterson 168). He prejudices people, including his wife. The narrator is limited in the sight of the tenderness in humanity. Ironically, the narrator gains insight with his eyes closed and while being led by Robert, a blind man. Further, the paradox is created in that the narrator does not see his life as he ought to until a blind man helps him to see it for what it is (Sadeq and Al-Badawi 158).
The author’s tone, however, changes towards the end of the story to depict the enlightenment and realisation that is the epiphany of the story. There is a gradual transition from an outrightly sad mood to an enthusiastic one when the blind man emerges as the hero of the story. Prejudice has particularly been used in the story to illustrate the transcending tone. The author has based their story on working to change the bias previously held by the narrator against the blind to develop the plot of the story.
Clark, Robert C. “Keeping the Reader in the House: American Minimalism, Literary Impressionism, and Raymond Carver’s” Cathedral”.” Journal of Modern Literature 36.1 (2012): 104-118.
Sadeq, Ala Eddin, and Mohammed Al-Badawi. “Epiphanic Awakenings in Raymond Carver’s Cathedral and Alice Walker’s Everyday Use.” Advances in Language and Literary Studies 7.3 (2016): 157-160.
Kita, Viola. “Dirty Realism in Carver’s Work.” Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences 5.22 (2014): 385.
Peterson, Polly Rose. “Psychological Distance in Raymond Carver’s CATHEDRAL.” The Explicator 70.3 (2012): 167-169.