Messages from Cathedral by Raymond Carver

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“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver, is a deep and sincere story, placed one night in New York. It is narrated in the first person by Bub, who is married. His wife used to work with Robert, a blind man. Robert’s wife has died, so the narrator’s wife decided to invite him to come over to their house. Bub was unhappy with it since his wife and the blind man had keep correspondence by audio tape for the past ten years, and the last day of her job she let Robert touched her face.

She wrote a poem about it. When the blind man arrived, after sharing dinner and some drinks, the narrator’s wife fell asleep, and Bub rolled two marijuana cigarettes. He smoked them with Robert. They were watching a documentary about cathedrals on the TV. The blind man asked Bub to describe one cathedral since he could not see it, but he was unable to do it, so Robert asked him to draw one.

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He put his hand on the narrator’s hand and started drawing. Robert told Bub to close his eyes and then open them after finishing, but he didn’t.

While reading this wonderful story, I tried to think about what I had read in Chapter 1 of the textbook: The Central Idea. It is funny because, at the end of the chapter, they talk about differing interpretations. They mention that there is no single best way to express the central idea of a story, there is only a range of ideas.

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I found myself stuck thinking about it since I found several interpretations. I read the story more than once trying to make it clear. This is a good opportunity to share with you my thoughts and discuss it.

This story is about jealousy, insecurity, and connection. A first-person narrator is a man dominated by prejudices. We can notice it because of the reaction of the narrator toward blind people when he says that his idea of blindness came from the movies, and the fact that Robert is blind bothers him. We also can feel predisposition toward Africans Americans when he refers to the blind man’s wife name, Beulah, as a name for a colored woman. He is a distant, ironic, and cynical man, bordering on discourtesy in his treatment of the guest. It is completely closed to the world. The narrator shows an absence of kindness when he thinks ‘Robert was left with a small insurance policy and half of a twenty-peso Mexican coin. The other half of the coin went into the box with her. Pathetic.’ He is trapped by routine, by monotony, and by his own limited vision. He is the main character in the story, and he has trouble building relationships. We can perceive it through his manifestation of jealousy of the connection his wife has with Robert. When he talks about the blind man touching his wife’ face we can feel he believes Robert can understand his wife deepest than him. That they have a special connection between them, but he thinks he is superior because he is capable of looking. We also can recognize some jealousy traits when he talks about his wife’s first relationship with an officer.

When Bub’s wife fell asleep on the sofa, and the blind man asks Bub to describe a cathedral while they were watching a documentary about these places, the story achieves its deepest symbolism. Since the narrator is unable to describe to Robert what a cathedral is, the author is suggesting that the narrator, at least symbolically, is also blind. Drawing a Cathedral is a new territory for him. It took him to a new place. His opinion about blind people seems to change in the process of the story. When Robert ask him to open his eyes and he doesn’t do it, for the first time he is seeing rather than looking. Bub learned how to connect with another person. He was trusting another person. I think Robert gives the narrator a new vision through the capacity to create. The blind man, the antagonist of the story, gives the protagonist a new perspective. The difference between both characters is that Bub has the ability to look, but Robert has the ability to see on a deeper level, which makes him connect with the narrator’s wife in a special way. Carver makes us reflect on the fragility of our existence, on those small details that can give us an absolutely unsuspected change to our lives. The writing is meticulous and concise.

I have had the pleasure of being inside a cathedral before. The feeling when you walk into a cathedral is matchless. It makes you feel inspired. In my opinion, Carver used this specific place because it is where people connect in some way with a higher power, and drawing the cathedral is the first moment when Bub feels a real connection with something. We can see it when he says that it was like nothing else in his life up to now. The author is making a connection.

After analyzing the story, I feel trapped among various interpretations of it. “Cathedral” is full of powerful messages. It talks about the difference between the physical act of looking and the act of seeing, which required a deeper level of engagement. It also talks about how a person can share significant experiences with those who least imagine. Besides, I think we can deduce that there is something unique and exquisite that we can only access through our minds, and I believe the central idea is close to this sentence. I could not stop thinking about this phrase from The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.’ From my point of view, blindness could help the narrator to perceive the reality in a different way, from his heart, beyond his eyes.

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Messages from Cathedral by Raymond Carver. (2022, Feb 11). Retrieved from

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