Arguably, Raymond Carver's work, "Cathedral" can be considered as one of the most elaborate examples that, in its deepest essence, define prejudice. While blindness, as a condition, can be said to manifest itself in various ways, its most detrimental form can be considered as the figurative blindness of an individual to their own situations or even their ignorance towards the feelings people around them. This being said, Raymond Carver, in this particular short story, makes the narrator's both psychological and emotional blindness clear and apparent. With reference to the experiences of Robert, the ideally blind man, Carver explores the many issues that are faced by the narrator as the key ideas of the story which primarily revolve around jealousy and symbolism.
To begin with, throughout the story, the narrator exemplifies the thematic meaning of blindness as well as the literal difference between the physical blindness and figurative blindness. For instance, right at the beginning of the story, the narrator's attitude towards Robert's visit already tells of his biasness towards the blind, and Robert, to be precise. However, as the story unfolds, Carver, through his extensive character development, makes it clear to the reader that unlike what is expected, the blind man is actually the one who can truly see. This fact is substantiated by the blind man's ability to perceive and understand the beauty, meaning and the joys of life, regardless of the fact that does not see. On the contrary, the narrator, who spends the entire time moaning and whining over life issues, the blind man, his wife, and above all, his position in life, is painted as the "blind" one. This is because, unlike Robert, who lacks physical sight, the narrator does not understand the beauty and the meaning of life until in the very end when he eventually closes his eyes and guides Robert.
In the same vein, in the introductory part of the story, the narrator gives an account of the fact that he and his wife were preparing for the arrival of her old friend Robert, who had recently lost his wife, Beluah. In this regard, the narrator is evidently not ecstatic about the arrival of their visitor, the blind man, and above all, his stay at their home. Drawn from this factor, the narrator gives a detailed explanation of how the relationship between his wife and the blind man had evolved into its current status, an issue which makes it apparent that he indeed suffers from figurative blindness, and also the fact that he is jealous of the relationship between Robert and his wife. In this regard, the narrator begins to judge Robert's condition, and he immediately assumes that the fact that he is not blind, he was, therefore, superior to Robert.
Similarly, throughout the story, blindness manifests itself as symbolic and at the same time figurative. In the story, Carver enhances the readers' interpretation of the thematic meaning and symbolism surrounding the story through the use of art as insight. To begin with, it is evident that the narrator, his wife, and Robert eventually find insight and the meaning of the experiences they had undergone, through storytelling, drawing, and poetry. According to the narrator, his wife was overly artistic, since, in every year, she writes a couple of poems which are always intended to mark significant and important events in her life. Although the narrator admits to not liking and understanding the poems, art becomes of major importance to him as the story unfolds. This is substantiated when the narrator gains the insights into his own life after drawing a picture of a cathedral with Robert. From this instance, although both Robert and the narrator gain insight from the drawing, the narrator, for the first time, realizes that indeed looking inwards was a crucial way for one to gain a deeper understanding and knowledge of themselves.
Besides, symbolism, in the story is clearly depicted in the cathedral image that is drawn by the narrator. Being a place of worship and connecting with God, drawing of the cathedral, in this case, is symbolic of the way in which the narrator makes a particular connection that brings about insight to his life. It is from the interpretation of this drawing that the narrator, for the first time, appears to see from his "blindness". In a similar regard, Carver conveys a sense of irony towards the end of the story where the narrator closes his eyes and is able to see, although the blind man is guiding him.
While it is evident that Carver's story, "Cathedral" is based on the thematic and symbolic meaning of blindness, the physical act of drug and alcohol use gives rhythm to the story and also weaves the narrative together. Throughout the story, someone prepares or sips from a drink before every significant action in the story. For instance, Robert is immediately introduced to social drinking, right after his arrival. Precisely, when Robert is questioned for the drink of his choice, the narrator does not hesitate to explain to him how he and his wife carry a little of everything as their "pastimes" (Carver 94). Additionally, when the narrator's wife tries to kill herself, she takes a bottle of gin, Robert to drinks on almost every occasion including when he waits for Robert and his wife to get back home from the train station. While the use of drugs and alcohol is described from this point in the plot onwards, Carver shows that the narrator's final enlightenment is as an immediate result of the mindset caused by his use of Marijuana. In this regard, the reader comes to a conclusion that a majority of the narrator's described problems can be essentially attributed to this drug and alcohol usage. This is clearly evidenced in a conversation between the narrator and Robert, immediately after smoking marijuana. "I reached for my glass. But it was empty. I tried to remember what I could remember" (Carver 98). Therefore, drawn from this particular dialogue, psychological blindness is shown as a result of the kind of influence that substance abuse has on an individual.
In conclusion, Carver's symbolic use of both physical and figurative "blindness", enables the reader to understand that despite being blinded from the physical world, Robert felt it necessary to help the narrator attain both the mental and emotional sight. This, in essence, would bring both understanding and justice to a man who despite the fact that he could see, as filled with a petty perception about life. In a similar regard, the final sentences of the story, where the narrator is finally listening to Robert, paint a compelling picture of the narrator's realization that blindness can manifest itself in numerous ways, and hence being blind is not an affliction that is entirely limited to the physical being.
Carver, Raymond.T Raymond Carver: Cathedral. Films Media Group,T 2010, pp.T 89-98.
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