Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” showcases how fast some people realize and learn that their preconceived notions are wrong. People go through experiences, big and small, which prove to them that they had wrong thoughts and beliefs. The unnamed narrator in the short story is unhappy to know that his wife’s blind friend Robert is coming to stay. His views on the blind only come from his bare knowledge of them from films, that have painted them in a bad light. His poor attitude about the blind man starts to change as the story continues and as he gets to know him better. He starts to let go of the cruel judgments and thoughts he has about Robert and the blind and begins trying to understand them. In “Cathedral”, the story is driven by the narrator’s character development as he starts off by being ignorant about the blind, to being intrigued by them, and ends up being accepting and understanding of them.
In the beginning of the story, the narrator is very closed minded about the blind man Robert. When he finds out that Robert is coming over, he states “And his being blind bothered me. My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed. Sometimes they were led by seeing-eye dogs. A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to” (Carver 104).
From the very beginning, he is ignorant about the blind. He bases his views on them solely on what he knows from movies. He believes that they are incapable of being normal human beings and can’t function properly. He looks at Robert’s stay as a burden.
The narrator is ignorant, he doesn’t want Robert in his home. When the narrator finally meets Robert, he slowly, but surely starts to get a better understanding of him and the blind. Towards the middle of the story, when the narrator and Robert begin their interaction, the narrator is observant of and intrigued by Robert. He starts to realize that these stereotypes about the blind aren’t always true. For example, he says “But he didn’t use a cane and he didn’t wear dark glasses. I’d always thought dark glasses were a must for the blind” (Carver 107). He is coming to his senses, realizing that one, not everything in movies about the blind is true, and two, the blind aren’t all the same.
He is steering away from his preconceived beliefs and heading towards understanding Robert. For example, when he watches Robert eat his dinner he says, “The blind man had right away located his foods, he knew just where everything was on his plate. I watched him with admiration as he used his knife and fork on the meat” (Carver, 108). The narrator recognizes that Robert is able to identify the foods on his plate. In the beginning of the story, the narrator would’ve wondered how the blind eat, but now he is enamored by the way the blind man eats. Also, the narrator is becoming less and less uncomfortable with Roberts presence, he even says “I’m glad for the company” when speaking to Robert (Carver 109).
The narrator is changing his attitude and is making progress in becoming open-minded.By the end of the story, the narrator really understands Robert. He realizes that blind people are normal people that do normal things just like himself. When the narrator’s wife isn’t really participating in the story is when readers get to see the narrator interact and change as he communicates with Robert. For example, when Robert and the narrator are watching tv together and the narrator describes the cathedral that is being shown on the screen to Robert, he tries his best to allow Robert to get an accurate image in his head. He says “To begin with, they’re very tall… They reach way up. Up and up.
Toward the sky. They’re so big, some of them, they have to have these supports. To hold them up, so to speak… In those olden days, when they built cathedral, man wanted to be close to God” (Carver 111). He does his best to give Robert as many details as he can. He wants to. When Robert requests the narrator to draw the cathedral for him, is when the narrator really builds a connection with Robert and better understands him.
He opens up and appreciates the power of the mind and imagination. As his eyes are closed and his hands move across the cathedral drawing and Robert tell him to open his eyes, he says “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… My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that.
But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything. ‘It’s really something.’ I said” (Carver 113). The narrator has a small epiphany, realizing his mischaracterizations of Robert and blind people and how judgmental he had been. This moment is important because this is the end of Robert’s character and personality evolution.
He has opened his eyes and mind.In Carver’s “Cathedral” readers get to watch the narrator start off closed minded and evolve into becoming open-minded. At the beginning of the story, he is ignorant about Robert and blind people, only believing things about the blind that he has seen in movies. Ironically, the narrator is blind to his own ignorance. Towards the middle of the story, when he meets Robert, he becomes intrigued as he observes him. By the end of the story, the narrator is really starting to understand Robert and realizing how wrong his judgements are. The narrator is no longer “blind.” If Robert and the narrator never interacted, the narrator would have had the same beliefs and wouldn’t have changed, he would have been a flat character.
Through his interaction with and observation of Robert, he is able to mature and further develop his character and personality, making him a round character. Without his character development, the story would be pointless and insignificant. The story is driven by the narrator’s change in personality, judgement, and attitude.