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The Blind Heart in Carver’s Cathedral

The Blind Heart in Raymond Carver’s Cathedral

A person’s ability to see is often taken for granted as it is in “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver. Although the title suggests that the story is about a cathedral, it is really about two men who are blind, one physically, the other psychologically. One of the men is Robert, the blind friend of the narrator’s wife; the other is the narrator-husband himself. The husband is the man who is psychologically blind. Carver deftly describes the way the husband looks at life: from a very narrow-minded point of view. Two instances in particular illustrate this. The first is that the husband seems to believe that the most important thing to women is being complimented on their looks; the second is that he is unable to imagine his wife’s friend Robert as a person, only as a blind man.

Carver consistently characterizes the husband as the real blind man because he is ignorant of so many simple things in life. One of the first hints of the husband’s blindness is addressed early in the story when the husband thinks about the blind man’s wife and says,

Imagine a woman who could never see herself as she was seen in the eyes of her loved one. A woman who could go on day after day and never receive the smallest compliment from her beloved. A woman whose husband could never read the expression on her face, be it misery or something better. (1055)

The husband seems to be saying that women need to be seen, that this is the most important or only important thing in their lives. He forgets that Robert can hear his wife’s voice, smell her perfume, enjoy her personality, and touch her skin. According to Dorothy Wickenden “Cathedral” is a story about ignorance and vulnerability – the deep-seated…

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…is blind. He constantly disregards his sight which he takes for granted. The husband is so narrow-minded and content within his own world, he neglects to “see” the rest of the world. Marc Chenetien said it best: “A spark of hope in ‘Cathedral’ tends to give a potentially new agenda to stories whose ultimate promise seems to remain that blindness unavoidably undercuts all awakenings” (30).

Works Cited

Allen, Bruce. “Carver.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Roger Matuz. New York: Gale Research, 1989. 55:103.

Burgeja, Michael J. “Carver.” Short Story Criticism. Ed. Shelia Fitzgerald. Pasadena: Salem Press, 1990. 8:23.

Carver, Raymond. “Cathedral” The Harper Anthology of Fiction: Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 1052-1063.

Chenetien, Marc. “Carver.” Short Story Criticism. Ed. Sheila Fitzgerald. Pasadena: Salem Press, 1990. 8:44.

Threatening Relationships in Carver’s Cathedral

Threatening Relationships in Carver’s Cathedral

Although many critics have written numerous accounts of Richard Carver’s “Cathedral” as being about revelation and overcoming prejudice, they have overlooked a very significant aspect: the unfolding of marital drama. The story tells of how a close outside friendship can threaten marriage by provoking insecurities, creating feelings of invasion of privacy, and aggravating communication barriers.

The close outside friendship between the narrator’s wife and Robert, the blind man, provokes the narrator’s insecurities. This friendship has lasted for ten long years. During those years, they have exchanged countless voice tapes wherein they both tell each other what has happened in their respective lives. Because of this, the narrator feels that his wife has told Robert more than Robert needs to know. The narrator laments, “she told him everything or so it seemed to me” (1054). The narrator’s fear is somehow confirmed when Robert arrives and says that he feels like they have already met (1055). The narrator is left wondering what his wife has disclosed. This murky situation leaves the narrator feeling insecure, especially when he sees the warm interaction between his wife and Robert.

The narrator’s insecurities unfold when it takes him almost five pages just to demonstrate how close the friendship is between his wife and Robert. It is as though he is justifying his irrational behavior or perhaps questioning if his wife could be secretly in love with Robert. The narrator assumes this because his wife only writes poems if something really important happens to her. He recalls that his wife never forgot that instant when Robert “touched his fingers to every part of her face…

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…m. Ed. Thomas Volteler. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989. 23-28.

Carver, Raymond. “Cathedral.” The Harper Anthology of Fiction. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 1052-1062.

Eder, Richard. “Pain on the Face of Middle America.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Daniel G. Marowski. Detroit: Gale Research Publishing, Inc., 1986. 103.

Works Consulted

Robinson, Marilynne. ” Marriage and other Astonishing Bonds.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Roger Matuz. Detroit: Gale Publishing Inc., 1989. 276-278.

Weele, Michael Vander. “Raymond Carver and the language of Desire.” Short Story Criticism. Ed. Thomas Volteler. Detroit: Gale Publishing Inc., 1989. 36-41.

Yardley, Jonathan. ” Raymond Carver’s American Dreamers.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Eds. Daniel Marowski and Roger Matuz. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1989. 63.

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