Raymond Carver "Cathedral"

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”Unknown Blindness” The narrator in Raymond Carver’s "Cathedral" is not a particularly sensitive man. I might describe him as self-centered, superficial, and egotistical. And while his actions certainly speak to these points, it is his misunderstanding of the people and the relationships presented to him in this story which show most clearly his tragic flaw: while Robert is physically blind, it is the narrator who cannot clearly see the world around him. In the eyes of the narrator, Robert’s blindness is his defining characteristic. The opening line of "Cathedral" reads, "This blind man, an old friend of my wife’s, he was on his way to spend the night" (Carver, 92). Clearly, the narrator cannot see past Robert’s disability; he dismisses him in the same way a white racist might dismiss a black person. In reality, any prejudice, be it based on gender, race, or disability, involves a person’s inability to look past a superficial quality. People who judge a person based on such a characteristic are only seeing the particular aspect of the person that makes them uncomfortable. He even goes so far as to suggest to his wife “maybe I could take him bowling” (Carver, 93). The narrator is superficial, only recognizing the external part of people and not recognizing the value of a person on the inside. The narrator, although insensitive, is actually quite polite. He tries to engage in small talk when Robert arrives but shows his insensitivity once again when he asks him “which side of the train did you sit on, by the way” (Carver, 95). He clearly does not know how to communicate with Robert, and it appears that he does not want to learn. Robert makes him uncomfortable, and the narrator does not know how to handle this. The narrator, in an effort to relieve his discomfort with the situation, offers Robert an alcoholic drink, and pours the first of many drinks to come.
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