Cathedral is a short story written by Raymond Carver. The story unfolds as a first person narrative of a main character named Bub. The story is short and slow paced. . In fact, the whole conversations and drama in the story is an event that took place in one day. The story beautifully depicts the process of an individual who transforms from this unknowledgeable, ignorant being into a knowledgeable soul. The story was written more than three decades ago and still is relevant today. The story is fashioned in such a way that this timeless beauty will continue to awe and inspire people generations onwards. The cathedral, in this story is a mere subject brought up at the end of this story which becomes the object of Bub's enlightment. All in all this short story 'Cathedral' tells a tale of Bub who through a blind man receives an eye opening experience.
The beginning of the story describes Bub's feeling as a blind person is visiting his home for the first time. This blind man was a good friend of Bub's wife. Bub The blind man is visiting the trite emotions and thoughts' going inside Bub's head as a Blind person is visiting his house for the first time. Through this mundane example of a cathedral through The story starts narrative story 'Cathedral' he sheds light on the motif of ignorance through the first person narrator. The narrator starts as being intolerable but towards the end of the story, he gets an eye opening experience, ironically with the assistance of a blind man that makes him open minded. The author has chosen the right theme of physical and psychological blindness to beautifully achieve the goal of his exploration of the baseness and rawness of the narrator Bub's condition. Carver's treatment of this issue is proficient and he has the ability to stir up psychological dilemmas within the reader. Like other readers would consent it is the narrator who is actually blind but not Robert the visually disabled.
Appearance as it would seem is deceptive, the narrator could see externally and the blind man was the one without sight. However, the narrator was the one blinded by his own ignorance. This first instance of his ignorance is passing judgment on Robert before even meeting him despite knowing very little about him. "And his being blind bothered me. My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed" (202). Apparently it is evident he is unknowledgeable about Robert when he says, "I'd always thought dark glasses were a must for the blind" or "I remembered reading somewhere that the blind didn't smoke" (206). He foolishly looked for any reason to detest the man, whether it was because he had married a colored woman named Beulah or because he had a beard on his face. Another example that shows the husband is blind in the beginning of the story is refering to Robert as "This blind man" (203) when Bub talks to his wife and never uses Robert's name or assigns any human attributes to him. This shows that the husband does not really see Robert as a person, but just as a blind man who is different because he has a handicap.
The blind man however antagonizes the narrator. He keeps an open mind to new experiences and states that he is always learning something because learning never ends, thus emphasizing his lack of ignorance. Robert's arrival at the couple's house further brings out the narrator's ignorance; the husband does not know what to say to him. He therefore begins to ask stupid questions about the view from the train: "Which side of the train did you sit on?" (205). The husband knows that Robert cannot see the view, but he asks him these questions anyway. Also, the husband thinks to himself, "I didn't know what else to say" (205), which is a clear indication that he is unable to establish a relationship with Robert. Both of these quotations show that the husband does not know what to talk about with Robert because he only sees Robert's handicap, instead of seeing him as a complete human being who has emotions, thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. Not only does the husband not know how to communicate with Robert, but also he does not know how to act around him either. A good example of this, shown after dinner, is when all three of them go into the living room. This is how the husband portrays what happens when they first enter the room: "Robert and my wife sat on the sofa. I took the big chair. We had us two or three more drinks while they talked about the major things that had come to pass for them in the past ten years. For the most part, I just listened. Now and then I joined in" (206). The husband's discomfort is revealed through his actions when the wife went upstairs to put on her robe. 'I didn't want to be left alone with a blind man. I asked him if he wanted another drink and he said sure. Then I asked if he wanted to smoke some dope with me. I said I'd just rolled a number. I hadn't, but I planned to do so in about two shakes' (207). He shows that he does not know how to act around Robert because again he does not see Robert as a person, but only as a blind man.
The narrator is asked to describe a cathedral later in the story by Robert. There is a need in the blind man to see, but there is nothing that will ever be able to fulfill that need. The narrator struggles to find the right words, the signifier that will provide a bridge to the thought in the blind man's head of the actual cathedral, the signified. When his language failed him, he relied on symbolism by drawing while holding the old man's hand to communicate to the blind man what he couldn't say with words. At this point he is introduced into the blind man's world and begins to see what it is like for him to have no sight. This allows the narrator to step outside of his own boundaries and give himself freedom from the ignorant world he used to live in. In the last few sentences of the story, he realizes for himself that he is free. "My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn't feel like I was inside anything" (211).
Bub was not only blind to his own ignorance but also blind to his wife and her feelings and needs. On the contrary, the blind man held a close relationship with the narrator's wife, allowing himself to be an outlet for her to vent her feelings on the tapes she sent him. Her husband seemed insensitive to her feelings when he brushed off the poem she had written about the experience of the blind man touching her face. As a result of his insensitivity, the wife is easily angered by the narrator on a couple different occasions and sometimes shouts at her husband. "Goddamn it, his wife's just died! Don't you understand that? The man's lost his wife."(203) In addition to his indifferent attitude towards her wife's feelings, the narrator appears to be jealous of the relationship between his wife and Robert. The jealous narrator expresses his envy when the three sit down after dinner to talk. "I waited in vain to hear my name on my wife's sweet lips'But I heard nothing of the sort. More talk of Robert" (206). His jealousy even bleeds on Robert's relationship with his former wife. He contemplates and decides that it is beyond his comprehension that Robert could marry a woman and love a woman he has never seen (205). But the narrator himself, who can see his wife clearly with his own eyes, cannot see the depth of her feelings the way Robert is able to. His blindness to his wife's feelings isolates him from her and seems to drive him to use mind-altering substances in attempt to escape reality. He says that he "smoked dope and stayed up as long as I could'My wife and I hardly went to bed at the same time" (209). Bub's conversation with Robert became clumsy but instead of dealing with them, he asks Robert if he would like to smoke dope. The narrator uses the drugs to achieve a sense of satisfaction. When people are starved of real love or a sense of satisfaction in their lives, they will repeatedly use material things in an attempt to fill this empty void which never becomes full. While the narrator gets his self satisfaction from drugs and alcohol, Robert finds his from being with his former wife. The narrator's wife called Robert and his former wife "inseparable" and recalls that "she died in a Seattle hospital room, the blind man sitting beside the bed and holding her hand" (204). The blind man seems to understand that time invested in people is much more worthwhile than any high one can get from a drug.
Raymond Carver's choice of theme of blindness makes his goal of offering a deeper understanding of the nature of human a success. He is able to tell readers that there is physical blindness and psychological blindness. Those with the physical disability could see well than those who are not. This motif is accentuated by these examples from the story--the first is the demeanor of Bub which shows signs of disapproval of the imminent visit of his wife's blind friend, the second is his contemplating the basis of his wife's friendship with Robert, and the third is his verbal and sensory interaction with the blind man when he draws a cathedral on a paper bag.