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The novel “Cathedral” is based on the thoughts of the narrator, an average American citizen. His life is suddenly disturbed by a visit of a blind man, an old friend of his beloved wife. They got to know each other a decade ago, when she was run out of money and saw a note in the paper, saying that a blind man needed someone to read to him. Soon, they had become good friend. They kept in touch by sending tapes to each other, telling about everything that happened in their lives and was somehow important. However, the narrator is quite nervous about this blind man, mainly because he had never personally known anyone of this kind. Furthermore, this nervousness filled him with cynicism. When the narrator sees the man, he is even more embarrassed due to the discrepancies of how the blind man actually looks and how he imagined him. The blind man smokes, does not wear glasses and has a beard. Throughout the visit, the whole atmosphere is pierced with awkwardness. The narrator knew only that “the blind moved slowly and never laughed” and he got this knowledge from the movies. He asks stupid questions, justifying himself by admitting that “I didn’t know what else to say”. The wife is doing her best to make her friend feel comfortable. The blind man, Robert, tries to calm them down, repeating that he is fine and that he does feel at home. Tasty meal, numerous drinks and marijuana help them to maintain the conversation. After some time, the wife goes upstairs because she is too tired. The husband switches on the TV and stops at the channel telling about European architecture, namely cathedrals. Robert has no idea of what they look like and asks the husband to describe them to him. The husband gets tangled with different words and descriptions, but finally gives up. However, Robert offers an idea: the man should draw a cathedral, while Robert will hold his hand on his and follow the lines. Suddenly the narrator “rises with the spirit of the blind man” and starts to understand the blind man, taking him as equal.
It seems that the main point is in the attitude of the seeing man towards the one who is blind. However, there is a question “who is really “blind”? Is it a man who has such a disability, or the narrator, who is not able to apprehend clearly what it really means? It may not be so evident, but the only person, who is emotionally blind almost until the end of the story, is the narrator. Obviously, he cannot consider Robert as a personality, but just as a blind human being, who is different because of his handicap.
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Jealousy is another feature disclosed in the story, namely jealousy to the past. In the course of events, the narrator mentions the ex-husband of his wife, “her childhood sweetheart”. However, he does not go into details and sharply interrupts this description. Actually, he does not like the whole story. The blind man himself appears a reminder of the narrator wife’s past, namely that part of her life, when he was a stranger to his wife. Robert can be compared to a ghost. The ghosts of the past always intrude one’s present, especially when people try to monopolize the thoughts and the hearts of their beloved.
The striking feature of Carver’s style is asceticism. It concerns not only his style of writing, laconic and simple to the limit (but not dry and bare), but also a choice of the plot. His stories are different episodes, taken from the middle of the person’s life. On the one hand, they can be easily retold in several words. However, on the other hand, they cannot be retold at all, because it will take the whole life to finish. Outwardly, his stories start with nothing and end up with nothing as well. However, in this small space, a reader manages to experience the whole life of the character. It seems that the characters of Carver’s stories are quite familiar. They all live in a so-called “single-storey America”. His characters can be easily recognized in the people around, relatives, and neighbors. They frequently approach to a line, in front of which they come to know real themselves. In the “Cathedral”, the husband, while drawing a cathedral with a hand of the blind man, starts to feel happiness, because he has never ever felt it during his previous life.