A simple human defect can shun and bring light to a person changing everything they view in life. In The Cathedral by Raymond Carver, the wife invites a friend to stay, after the friend’s wife had recently died. The narrator is upset that his wife’s friend, a blind man, is coming to stay with them because his wife is very fond of this blind man.
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It is apparent that the narrator also carries a stereo type for blind people, upon watching his wife help the man he sarcastically states, ‘This blind man, feature this, he was wearing a full beard! A beard on a blind man’ (Carver, 59)! After they were situated inside he makes another mental comment ‘But he did not use a cane and he didn’t wear dark glasses. I’d always thought dark glasses were a must for the blind’ (Carver, 60). As the story progresses, the narrator keeps learning more about Robert and that he is not the stereo-typed blind man he had thought of in the beginning of the story. The narrators attitude change first becomes apparent at dinner, ‘I watched with admiration as he used his knife and fork on the meat’ (Carver, 61). Also showing the positive mental change the narrator was beginning, making him the protagonist in the story. After dinner was finished they all sat down to watch TV, the wife asks if he has a TV, the blind man replied to the wife, ‘My dear, I have two TVs. I have a color set and a black-and-white thing, an old relic. It’s funny if I turn on the TV, and I’m always turning it on, I turn the color set on. It’s funny don’t you think’ (Carver, 61)? ‘I didn’t know what to say to that’ (Carver, 61) the narrator thinks after he finished talking, again showing how his stereo type of a blind man was being torn apart.
They had listened to the weather and a sports program, the narrator gets up to change the channel. By this time the wife had fallen asleep on the couch and the two men begin their own bonding. The narrator offers to take the man up to bed, ‘No, I’ll stay up with you bub. If that’s all right. I’ll stay up until you’re ready to turn in. We haven’t had a chance to talk’ (Carver, 63). The narrator pleasantly responds, ‘That’s all right’I’m glad for the company’ (Carver, 63). The mood towards the blind man begins to shift at this point. The blind man and the narrator sit in silence for some time listening to the TV program. He watched the blind man, almost as if he was studying him, ‘He was leaning forward with his head turned to me, his right ear aimed in the direction of the set. Very disconcerting. Now and then his eyelids drooped and then they snapped open again. Now and then he put his fingers into his beard and tugged, like he was thinking about something he was hearing on the television’ (Carver, 64).
‘I waited as long as I could. Then I felt I had to say something…They’re showing the outside of this cathedral now. Gargoyles. Little statues carved to look like monsters. Now I guess they are in Italy. Yeah, they’re in Italy. There’s painting on the walls of this one church’ (Carver, 64) so he begins narrating what is on. ‘Something has occurred to me. Do you have any idea what a cathedral is? What they look like, that is’ (Carver, 65)? Robert briefly tells him of what he thinks the cathedral looks like, but does not have much of a clue, ‘But maybe you could try to describe one to me’ (Carver, 65)? The narrator attempts to describe what they look like and with no success. Robert then suggests that they could draw one together. The narrator then goes to gather the things they needed. ‘He found my hand, the hand with the pen. He closed his hand over mine’ (Carver, 66) and they begin to draw. The narrator is drawing the cathedral as Robert holds onto his hand and then can follow and feel what it looks like. ‘Never thought anything like this could happen in your lifetime, did you, bub’ (Carver, 66) Robert says to him. Robert then has him close his eyes and he does so without cheating or peaking, he shows trust for the blind man. He makes a silent comment, ‘It was like nothing else in my life up to now’ (Carver, 67) he has been touched by Robert and it is a profound moment for the narrator as he had never expected the night to go this way. They keep on drawing and drawing, Robert encouraging him to keep going. Robert finally asks him to open his eyes and take a look, ‘But I had my eyes closed. I thought I’d keep them that way for a little longer. I thought it was something I ought to do’ (Carver, 67). He is so caught up in what seems to him a precious moment as he savors it. Robert asking him again if he was looking, ‘My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything’ (Carver, 67). The narrator breaks free of his stereo typed ways and his eyes are opened.
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Robert brings forth a change in the wife’s husband from a simple night of watching television. The narrator becomes aware of how blinded he was and Roberts’s actions change him forever. Raymond Carver illustrates how one man can make a great difference in another’s life even when the person who seems more capable and aware can be the one most blinded.
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