In the story “Cathedral,” the author shares his experience with a blind man, a friend of his wife, who comes to visit their home. The author is troubled by the blind man’s visit for unclear reasons, but he attributes it to Robert’s (the blind man) disability. The narrator dislikes the blind and often refers to Robert as “the blind man” and was bothered by Robert’s visit to their home. The narrators experience with the blind man is an eye opener to him and changes his perspective towards blind people and his relationship with his wife.
This essay examines why the narrator kept his eyes closed at the end of the story, and the fate of his relationship with his wife after the experience with Robert. The idea that the narrator dislikes the blind when he is limited to his own sight makes the story ironical. The narrator’s experience with the blind man (Robert) clearly shows his limitations in terms of his relationship with his wife and his perspective towards the blind and life.
The narrator is insecure with Robert because Robert and his wife were once married (Carver, 1989). This reveals his negativity and crudeness. He talks in a wicked humor, showing how detached he was from his life. He is jealous of the past relationship between Robert and his wife, which he tends to hide despite his apparent honesty (Carver, 1989). The narrator realizes a lot about himself through his experience with Robert. He is always alone according to his wife and he stays up watching television as she goes to bed (Carver, 1989). This shows a poor relationship between the narrator and his wife, as well as the society. The narrator lives in isolation, which shows his adamant close-mindedness, apparently in his feelings and pre-convinced concepts of blindness. Robert appreciated the narrator’s wife more than the narrator did while the narrator is more than remote to her (Carver, 1989).
He realizes this in their conversations that night and in his experience when conversing with Robert. The narrator realizes that Robert was better than him, despite his inability to see. When the narrator closes his eyes, he sees the reality that Robert has been trying to show him since they met. He realizes the importance of religion as He leads Roberts in drawing the Cathedral. Robert’s final instruction to the narrator “put some people in there now” is a wakeup call to the narrator (Shmoop, 2010). Robert shows the narrator the power of faith in something great. The narrator also realizes that relationships are not build by sight alone, but also by touch. The narrator’s wife described Roberts touch with passion, and when Robert squeezes the narrator’s hand upon meeting him. The narrator realizes that one can learn about a person through touch.
The blind are not blinded by the physical world and they can see some greater truth (Shmoop, 2010). The narrator’s experience with Robert makes him understand how he has been living blindly despite having sight. In the Cathedral, the narrator experiences a revelation that is both religious, and a social awakening. He gains literal, as well as figurative insights. The narrator learns to live a better life with his wife and other people. He appreciates Robert’s company and the eye opening experience. The narrator and his wife will live a better life after the experience with Robert. This is because the narrator’s view of his wife has changed, and his jealousy of her relationship with Robert would diminish as he now understands it better. The narrator has also accepted Christianity, meaning as a Christian, he will be open to his wife and the society; thus, building a better relationship. He prefers closing his eyes to opening them since he sees the reality of his life better with his eyes closed than when opened.
Carver, R. (1989). Cathedral. Vintage Books.
Shmoop. (2010). Cathedral: Shmoop Literature Guide. Shmoop University Inc.