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Raymond Carver was an American short story writer and poet. He enrolled in a creative writing class that was taught by John Gardner, who became a mentor and gave guidance towards Carver’s career. Carver wrote 72 short stories and 306 poems. He published “Cathedral” in 1983. “Cathedral” is considered to be one of Raymond Carver’s greatest works. “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver is about a man whose wife has a long-time friend named Robert who is blind. Robert is planning to come visit the man’s wife for the evening. He has never had any kind of interaction with a blind man and is unsure about the whole experience. The story is set somewhere in New York over one single night in the late 1970s and is written in first person. The narrator shows a change in character as his early judgment of uncertainty transitions into a life changing experience. The man has many emotions and thoughts towards his wife and Robert before and during the visit, as well as character development, and a strong bond that would change his outlook on life.
The wife’s husband in this story has many emotions and thoughts when approached by his wife who informs him that her blind friend will be coming to visit. The story starts out with a man who does not want to get to know his wife’s friend Robert due to him being blind. “He recalls having a negative attitude about the entire idea of the visit, an event complicated by his own feelings of jealousy and inadequacy. He resents blindness, although he does not seem able to clearly express why”. Robert and the man’s wife had become close friends after she notices a help wanted ad in the newspaper involving being a caretaker for Robert. She and Robert keep in touch over a span of ten years. When the husband is approached with the plans that Robert will be coming to stay the night, he is very displeased, stating “He was no one I knew and his being blind bothered me”. When Robert arrives they all discuss life and talk about things in the past. The husband is asked if he would like to listen to a tape of his wife and Roberts’s conversation, which he for the most part says yes, but then leaves to go make them drinks. He is obviously unenthusiastic about listening to the audio tapes. In “Cathedral” it is unusual in that the narrator is emotionally close to the action she describes, yet maintains a detached stance”. They all sit in the living room after dinner and the husband gets frustrated as his wife and Robert discuss things that happened to them over the last ten years. He feels weird when his wife falls asleep and just he and the blind man remain. He doesn’t want to be left downstairs with just a blind man. He obviously doesn’t feel comfortable around the blind man. The Quote I said, “Are you tired? Do you want me to take you up to your bed? Are you ready to hit the hay”? The husband is now one on one with Robert as Robert decides to stay awake. Many emotions run through him as he puts his past thoughts behind him and decides it might be nice to have some company after all.
The husband has strong character development throughout the story. In the beginning of the story he wants nothing to do with Robert and is displeased with the fact that he will be coming to stay the night. He stereotypes people with the disability of blindness and thinks of them as incapable of accomplishing things on their own. The man jokes and says they could go bowling, which frustrates the wife as she asks him to make this visit work for her. He assumes things about Robert from information he has read like “the blind didn’t smoke, yet his ashtray was filled and needed to be emptied”. The husband goes on to discuss Robert’s wife that passed away and how he could not understand how the wife must have felt to never receive a compliment from her beloved. The quote “A woman whose husband could never read the expression on her face, be it misery or something better” describes his judgment very well. The husband continues to be disengaged throughout the beginning of the visit, as most of the conversation is between his wife and Robert. The story mentions that he was just waiting to hear his name in his wife and Robert’s conversation. He finally hears his wife mention his name, and they begin to have somewhat of a conversation. As the story continues, the wife falls asleep; this leaves the husband and Robert together. The husband begins to communicate with Robert one on one. They begin discussing a cathedral that is being shown on TV with all the details.
A bond begins to develop between the husband and Robert after the wife falls asleep. The show about the Cathedral begins to describe the details being shown on the television. The husband tries to relay that information back to the blind man, so he could visualize the details being discussed. He asks Robert if he is familiar with what a cathedral is. Robert says “I know they took hundreds of workers fifty or a hundred years to build”. The husband begins to make it his mission to get Robert an image of a cathedral. He starts naming details like height, designs, and statues in hopes that Robert will understand. The husband seems to almost give up as he says “cathedrals aren’t important to him and they are just something to look at on late night TV”. Robert tells the husband to go grab a sheet of paper and a pen. The husband comes back with it, and Robert grabs the husband’s hand. The husband begins drawing the cathedral as Robert has his hand on the husband’s. Robert gives the husband words of encouragement throughout the drawing. At the end of the drawing Robert tells the husband to look at the drawing, as he continues to keep his eyes closed. The husband says with his eyes closed “It’s really something”. “At no time during the narrative does the speaker explicitly acknowledge that he is in fact the ‘blind’ person, but his willingness to talk about his experience with Robert suggests that he has become someone who is open, someone who finally has ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’. I believe the husband is a changed man and understands that just because somebody doesn’t have everything somebody else has; it does not mean they are any less of a person.
In “Cathedral” the writer shows his emotions and thoughts throughout the story ending with a strong bond at the end with Robert. His uncertainty and his judgmental state are very well known as you read the story. He shows hesitation in wanting to get to know Robert because he is not like everybody else. The wife falling asleep is a major part in the story because it almost forces the husband to spend time with Robert and engage in conversation with him. The character development shows how you cannot judge a book by its cover. He grows from a person who was shallow and standoffish to a person who enjoys understanding Robert and understanding that people in the world are different. Readers can learn not to be shallow or rude to people who might not have been born with the same capabilities as others. The moral of the story is sometimes you need to get to know people for who they are inside and not what they are on the outside. A lot of people have special attributes that can teach us a lot about ourselves, life, and future engagements with people we have not met yet. The bonds we can have with people are forever life changing and should be held onto forever. Sometimes a seemingly simple interaction with someone can lead to a change in how you approach and treat people in the future.
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