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“Cathedral” written by Raymond Carver Essay

In the story “Cathedral” written by Raymond Carver, it seems that stereotypes of the blind form barriers between the blind and the sighted. The man in the story has always had misconceptions of the blind which “came from the movies” (Carver 1). The title, “Cathedral”, is significant because it helps the man envision the life of Robert. As Robert, the blind man, entered his life, it was hard for the man to form any bond with Robert due to his visual impairment. The man even created a picture in his mind of what Robert would look like, and how he would act. This is because the man has never had any interaction with a blind person, making him have preconceived ideas about Robert.

Having Robert stay at the man’s house left the man feeling quite uneasy. Not only was Robert a threat to his wife, he also thought that Robert may be a hassle to deal with. The man stated, “I wasn’t enthusiastic about his visit. He was no one I knew. And his being blind bothered me” (Carver 1). Because the man had such strong images in his mind about Robert, the first time he saw Robert caught him by surprise. Robert’s appearance was not unordinary, and did not look like a blind person. ” He wore brown slacks, brown shoes, a light brown shirt, a tie, a sports coat. Spiffy” (Carver 32). At this point, the man’s ideas about the blind people’s appearance had been contradicted.

When the man realized that his assumptions about Robert were false, and that they actually shared some things in common, he began to feel more comfortable with Robert, even being, “glad for the company” (Carver 84). This is the first time the man was being polite and friendly to Robert. Soon after, a bond between Robert and the man had begun after a program about cathedrals came on the television. The man becomes aware that, “There were times when the Englishman who was telling the thing would shut up, would simply let the camera move around over the cathedrals” (Carver 92). The silence in the room became awkward for him because he realized that Robert did not know what was happening when the narrator stopped speaking.

Since the man’s stereotypes were beginning to shed during the cathedral conversation, the man came more open with Robert, and realized that Robert is not much different from the rest of society. The two of them began to compare how well each of them envisioned the cathedrals. Robert gave facts that were heard tight off the television, demonstrating his limited knowledge. The man also attempted to describe this cathedrals, “they’re really big,”(Carver 100) he explains, “they’re massive”(Carver 100). At this point, he understood just how little he actually knew about the cathedrals, even with a picture right in front of him. Now the man is awakened to his newly, humbled, equal position along side Robert, with the help of the cathedral.

With the man’s stereotypes diminishing, he became to trust Robert and is giving him a chance to build a relationship. When Robert brought up the idea for the man to draw the cathedral out as Robert follows, the man was able to appreciate what blind people go through. When he finished the drawing, Robert said, “Well are you looking?”(Carver 125) The man replied, “It’s really something”(Carver 126). The man had allowed himself to experience, even if for just a few minutes, what Robert experiences every second of his life. This was the same man, who only a few hours ago did not want Robert to be in his house.

Overcoming prejudices, fears, and misconceptions are only possible when you allow yourself to get close to a person who these feelings are directed towards. By the man becoming close with Robert, he was capable to see what was necessary to gain an understanding of what life is like for a blind man, with the help of the vision of the cathedral. The man began to draw the cathedral to try and help Robert visualize what one looked like. What he did not realize is that Robert was actually helping him visualize what blindness felt like.


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