Free «Cathedral by Raymond Carver» Essay Sample

Cathedral is one of the most famous stories by Raymond Carver, which was first published in 1981, and afterwards in1983 as a revised version, which has become very popular among readers, and on which this essay is relying. Some critics and Carver himself consider this story to be a turn point in his writing because its ending is hopeful and happy, unlike in the previous works. From the first view, Cathedral is a story about a usual man whose wife invited her blind friend to visit them. The story is narrated by the main hero himself, so it is quite easy to trace his emotions and thoughts. There also are some flashbacks telling about the past of the blind man and narrator’s wife, which also help to describe the heroes’ characters and understand them better, but the main idea of the story is brought into focus in the end of the story, when a blind man asks to describe him a cathedral and the narrator can not do it, then Robert, a blind man, teaches a sighted man to “see’. In such way Raymond Carver shows that the physical limitations can not be an obstacle for the right perception. Eyesight is not a guide to have an accurate world view. Things in reality can be much different from what they seem. To see is not as important as to feel, to see and to perceive are two different notions, the faith and the world view can not be seen with one’s eyes, but only felt and realized with one’s soul and mind.

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Two men, who are compared in the story, are the narrator and the blind man, who is his wife’s old friend. The narrator is a usual man, who is not satisfied with his life, though he has everything a person can need: he is physically healthy, has a good wife, a good job, a nice house etc. Despite all this, he is unhappy, not hospitable, jealous person. He does not appreciate what he has. He does not like his job as he says in the story: “Did I like my work? (I didn't.)”, according to his words, he works there only because he has no options (Carver). The narrator understands the world and life in his own ignorant way. In addition, the relations of the narrator’s wife with her blind friend are much closer and trustful, than with her husband. They exchange tapes and the wife tells him everything, the blind man knew all what happened to her, all her thoughts and problems (Carver). The narrator is even jealous of Robert, but he does not say anything to his wife about it. His jealousy is expressed when  three heroes talk after dinner, and the narrator waits in vain that his wife will talk about him, he “heard nothing of the sort. More talk of Robert" (Carver).  He also can not understand how Robert could marry a woman if he could not see her appearance; visualization is of great importance in his life (Carver). But in reality the narrator himself, who can see his wife with his own eyes, is blind to see her inner feelings, her soul, to understand her thoughts and desires the way Robert is able to. This blindness to his wife's feelings makes the husband and wife almost strangers to each other. Consequently, they "hardly went to bed at the same time", they become not very close (Carver). The narrator does not feel himself comfortable and cozy even at his own home. The nightly cannabis smoking and alcohol abuse are the main ways for him to relax. He rarely communicates with people, has no friends at all, moreover, he knows a little about blind people as he tells “I don't have any blind friends” (Carver). Although he didn’t know much about the blind friend of his wife, the narrator starts judging on Robert before their meeting "…his being blind bothered me... In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed" (Carver). It looks foolishly to dislike the man, having no reason for it. That is quite strange and unwise to dislike a person whether because he had married a colored woman named Beulah or because of his beard (Carver). Unlike the narrator, blind Robert is open to everything new and says that he is always trying to get to know and feel something new because learning never ends, this demonstrates his intelligence (Carver). Though the narrator has everything one can need, the blind man is to be envied and respected. He has a more accurate world view than most people with good healthy vision. That’s also symbolic, that the author gave name to a blind man, his name is Robert, while the readers do not know what he narrator’s name is. They both speak the same language and live in the same world, but, finally, a blind man is wiser than the one, who can see. Though both men speak English, one perceives the world only with eyes and relies on his eyesight to communicate, while the other does not. As a result, these two men do not understand each other as if they speak different languages. But the wise blind man manages to open the narrator's eyes and show him his own world. It happens when Robert asks the narrator to describe him a cathedral and the narrator fails to do it. Though he can see how the cathedral looks, he can not explain the man what it is because it means nothing to him and just visualization will not let anyone perceive what a cathedral is, as it is a symbol of faith into something great, of the place for community. The blind man manages to show he narrator what it is like to have no sight when he asks the narrator to close his eyes and rides narrator’s fingers as his “hand went over the paper” and shows him his world (Carver).  Afterwards the narrator is not isolated in his body any more, as he tells “I didn't feel like I was inside anything”, in such way Carver shows that the narrator becomes free and can see everything clearly. The character of Robert in the story is quite spiritual and can be compared to a priest or a religious advisor, who helps the narrator to clear his mind and see the reality.

It is obvious that the main themes of Carver’s story are as follows: man’s isolation, s delusion, inaction, disaffection. All this is shown on the example of the main hero, who was sighted but at the same time blinded by his ignorance. The blind man was the one without sight, but he was the one who could “see”. The story proves again that the main things are seen with closed eyes and felt with heart. The essence of the cathedral is not what it looks like, but what it means, as in all other cases the essence of a thing is inside it, not outside.

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