Raymond Carver’s Cathedral


The relationship between Robert and the husband in Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” is rather awkward. The husband’s view of blind people is quite negative throughout the story. Robert and the husband’s relationship shifts quickly from fear and prejudice to an understanding and mutual respect of the blind. The husband’s experience of the cathedral drawing with Robert changes the husband’s point of view of the blind.


At first, the narrator, who is also the husband, is stereotyping Robert because of Roberts’ sight depravation. He expresses his ignorance of the blind early in the story. “My idea of blindness came from movies…the blind moved slowly and never laughed. Sometimes they were led by seeing-eye dogs.” This passage clearly shows the narrow mindedness of the narrator. He is judging Robert by what he has seen blind people to be like in movies and not by what his wife has told him. Furthermore, when his wife tells him the name of Roberts deceased wife, he immediately stereotypes Roberts’ wife as a “Negro”. Again, the narrator is generalizing Roberts’ wives’ name, Beulah, because it sounded like a colored person’s name. Also, at first sight of Robert the narrator questions the blind mans appearance. “But he didn’t use a cane and didn’t wear dark glasses. I’d always thought dark classes were a must for the blind”. Once more, the narrator believes that dark glasses and a cane must be used by blind people.


Near the very end of the story the narrator begin to alter his view of Robert. It is not until the narrators’ wife dozes off to sleep that Robert and the narrator begin to communicate. The narrator begins flipping through the channels on the TV and ends up back to where he started, with a program about Middle Age Cathedrals. He then apologizes for changing the channels, and Robert states, “…it’s all right…its fine with me. Whatever you want to watch is okay. I’m learning something. Learning never ends….” This is when transformation of the narrator beings. As the program goes on the narrator begins to try and explain what is going on. Moreover, he starts explaining what the cathedrals look like, and does a poor job in his explanation. After apologizing for his explanation of a cathedral, Robert says, “I get it, bub. It’s okay. It happens. Don’t worry about it.” The narrator begins to realize that he needs to listen more openly to others and oversee his prejudice views. The two of them then begin to draw a picture of cathedrals to further help Roberts view of them. Even though, the narrator was not good at drawing he kept at it for Roberts’ sake. Finally, Roberts asks the narrator to shut his eyes and continue drawing. “So we kept with it. His fingers rode my ringers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing else in my life up to now,” stated the narrator. Clearly now the narrator has a much better understanding of the blind man. He began to realize that Robert can envision what the cathedrals look like through the drawing.


In conclusion, the narrator of the story learns to break his stereotypical ways and understand people. The communication between Robert and the narrator changes the narrow views of the narrator. Quickly the relationship between them is shifted from fear and prejudice to an understanding and respect of each other.