In the story

In the story, “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver, the narrator goes through a life-changing event that opens his eyes to a new way of looking at life and blindness. Even though he is sitting in his living room, by the end of the story, he doesn’t feel like he is “inside anything.” The narrator has learned to see things from a new perspective, one in which he is no longer afraid of or ignorant about blindness. He has gained a new understanding and empathy for those who are blind, and his views on life have been changed forever. The narrator has shown that he is willing to change, and it is at this point in the story that he begins to live a new life.

The dangers of close-mindedness can create the illusion of safety by blocking one’s ability to see possibilities. “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver shows the narrator’s ignorance of blindness and how his lack of understanding ultimately led him through a path of self-discovery and a better understanding of what it means to be blind. Close-mindedness is a dangerous thing because the person who suffers from it is unaware of their own naivety and the consequences that will result. In “Cathedral,” the narrator admits that all he knows about blindness “Comes from the movies” (Carver, 5). This demonstrates why his ignorance was so dangerous- he did not explore more information on blindness, and instead relied on something that he knew nothing about. It is this same ignorance that leads him to describe a cathedral as “something to look at on late-night TV” (6). Close-mindedness prevented him from learning enough about blindness to change his perception.

The narrator’s ignorance about blindness eventually leads him to believe that the blind man is only pretending to be blind. The narrator had been married to a woman named Amy at one point, but she left him because he was too distant and cold. He found that she was having an affair with another man, and he took on the role of a “vengeful husband” (7) by getting into a fight with Amy’s lover while they were driving. The narrator’s anger drives him to chase the other car until it crashes into a tree, killing both occupants of the vehicle instantly. It is while the narrator is in an alcohol-induced blackout that he discovers his wife has left him for good because he would never get better.

He let the smoke dribble from his mouth”. This phrase shows that the narrator was unaware of the effect that his actions had on others. He did not see the effects of his own decisions, nor did he realize how wrong and cruel he was being. The narrator refused to seek help or take responsibility for his actions, which ultimately led him back into drinking. “He [the narrator] stopped thinking” (6). Taking on the role of being a “vengeful husband” cost him everything in life and took away all his ability to accept responsibility for himself. The narrator was blind to what he needed from others and from himself. He was blinded by all the “scenes he lived for, the things that filled his head” (6). This phrase clearly demonstrates how the narrator had lost his ability to think for himself and live in reality. In order to be content with being blind, he had to stop thinking and give up on what was important to him. The narrator ignored his wife and son, as well as any responsibilities he had as a husband and father. He was unable to face what needed

to be done or accept the consequences of his own actions. The narrator suffered a loss of sight, but it was not until he lost his ability to see that he lost sight of himself. He was “a man without a center” (6). The narrator was unable to accept the abuse of his wife and son due to his inability to see. He did not have the ability to recognize that he had a responsibility as a father and husband, or that he needed help from others. He lost sight of himself, which culminated in the loss of sight of his family because he was no longer able to accept responsibility for them. He lost sight of what

was important in life and it cost him everything. The narrator did not care about his son or wife, as long as he had songs on the radio or something light on television. His drinking allowed him to avoid any responsibilities and allowed him to escape reality. It was simply easier for him to drink, because he had no idea what he was doing to his family or the world around him. “He went on–went down deeper and deeper in misery, not knowing that any of it was real and not knowing how to get out” (6). He drank whatever he could find, regardless of its reputation or quality. Even so, the narrator did not care about what others thought of him. His attitude in “Cathedral” demonstrates that he didn’t care about anything because he had no vision and could not see what was really happening to him.

The narrator’s lack of concern for himself led him back into drinking after his wife left him. “So we kept on with it” (6). By using the

impersonal “we,” the narrator shows that he no longer cares about himself. He has given up on life, so his wife and son are forced to simply go along with him. They do not force him to stop drinking; instead, they continue to live a life of “drinking and fighting” (6) with him. In a sense, he is killing them, because they are not able to fight back or escape from what

they were forced into by the narrator. By giving up his will to live and going back into drinking, the narrator has lost sight of what is important in life.

The narrator truly learns to see things from a new perspective once he loses his sight. The narrator’s spiritual awareness comes from losing something that is important to him. “He felt suddenly as if he were being carried down some long, dark, cool tunnel” (7). The narrator realizes that there are things out there that are bigger than him and will continue to exist after he is gone. He sees that everything in this world has a purpose and that there is truth out there about what one has to do in life. The narrator realizes that life does not have any purpose if one does not see the way things really are. It is only when the narrator loses his sight that he gains a spiritual awareness of life. This spiritual awareness is the only thing that could have been gained from losing his sight, because he only understands life in terms of the important things and how to get them. The narrator gains a new appreciation for life, because he sees what is important in it. “He saw that he didn’t need eyes to see that” (8). The narrator goes back into drinking after losing his wife, but this time he starts to gain a spiritual awareness of his own life. Without a wife or son around any longer, the narrator has no reason not to be able to accept what he did wrong. He is finally able to see all the mistakes that he made and begin to accept responsibility for them. While being in a state of self-induced blindness, the narrator does not realize how much he is hurting everyone around him. He is blind to himself, which results in him hurting his wife and son. He was blind to what life would be like without them, so he went back into drinking. The narrator was able to see how much he was hurting his family by going back into drinking. He realizes that he missed out on all the good things in life because of his inability to see and deal with reality. Once the narrator starts gaining a spiritual awareness of life, he realizes that there are greater things going on behind the scenes than anything that appears in front of him.