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Cathedral, Raymond Carver's short story depicts a lot of points and experiences the today's society can identify with. Through the first person narrative, we are introduced to a disturbed man as early as the first sentence of the story. He stereotypes a blind man who has come to stay with him and his wife in blatant show of ignorance. His dislike for Robert, the blind man eases after some time along the story and finally learns from the same person he looked down upon. The blindness portrayed here is not only of Robert but also the very conspicuous blindness o the narrator of his own situation and also the ignorance towards others feelings in what I would conveniently call emotional and psychological blindness.
The narrator's ignorance regarding Roberts inability is clear when he says that he wasn't enthusiastic about his visit and that he was no one he knew and his state of blindness bothered him. It is interesting that the narrator's dislike for Robert is after he meets him in person and realizes that he is blind. This statement by the narrator sums up his attitude towards Robert, a fact that his wife is not comfortable with.
The narrator attitude towards the blind man is merely because he is blind and he doesn't know how to deal with blind people. What comes out clearly is his own figurative blindness that even proves to be worse than Robert's blindness. While Robert is blind, he was the one who employed the narrator's wife some ten years back to read reports and case studies because he could not read them himself. One instance that brings out the narrators figurative blindness is the fact that the relationship between his wife and Robert blossomed due to the problems in their marriage. The jealousy the narrator has against Robert prevents him from seeing into real character of Robert who despite losing his wife earlier on, still manages to be jovial and comfortable for instance when he refers to the narrator as 'Bub' just minutes after he arrived.
The narrator is also obliviously blind to his alcohol and use of drugs and even introduces Robert to drinking when he even tells Robert that he and his wife carry a little everything as there favorite past times. The use of marijuana and alcohol is also the cause of his many problems. The theme of blindness is apparent not only in the literal blindness of Robert but more in the narrator's live as he thrives to find fault in Robert forgetting that he is not better off judging from the problems in his life, is brought out clearly. Actually Bub suffers from insecurity as he strives to assert authority in the house and he does it in the most irrelevant of ways; by hating on Robert even before he comes.
Change of attitude through experience is a theme that is the most prominent here especially the change the narrator goes through when he finally gets to know Robert. The more closed Bub is not receptive to new experiences and people and that may be why he has problems in his life, here Robert comes as a savior by changing all that and transforming him. In the turning point of the life of Bub, his wife falls asleep and he has no choice but to converse with Robert. He learns the thoughts f Robert and this aids in his personal transformation. Robert realizes that Bub is disturbed when he asks him about his religion and Bub gives an ambiguous reply.
The most conspicuous conflict in the story Cathedral is the struggle of a man against himself. Bub is seen often ranting inwardly against things he did not like especially with regard to Robert's presence and the antagonism he has with the blind man. The narrator who has a big problem with jealousy goes through a rough time when the wife tells him that Robert touched her face and even her neck. This has detrimental effect on Bub's emotions who views these as sexual. He even dehumanizes his wife's ex-husband and Robert thus reasserting his authority in the household. This way, Bub is portrayed as an insecure character with not enough confidence to face small challenges as they come. He believes he can only become a man by belittling others to his advantage.
Bub's wife also has internal conflict especially stemming from her past. She has been divorced before and suffers from loneliness, a fact that even leads her to an attempted suicide. Despite all her past, she lands a difficult marriage again thus eating her from within especially when her husband does not even care much about her, he only sees faults in her especially her relationship with Robert.
The turning point is when he relinquishes his power to what he would have considered the least of persons. He realizes that Robert more a lot about the cathedral than he does though he is blind. In realization of these, he abruptly gives up and prescribes solutions to his ills. He is no longer the bigger person here in control, instead he gives in to Robert and he guides him with the cathedral drawing though he is blind. The conclusion of his conflict with himself is when he sympathizes with Robert who he really detested earlier on.
Conflict with the wife is also portrayed when he is not pleasant with some things the wife does for instance her relationship with Robert. He has issues in his marriage too thus not really at ease with the wife. Poor communication skills exist between them thus marriage riddled with insecurities and tension.
The cathedral has the symbolism or religion that can be gotten from when Robert asks Bub if he is religious, a thing that Bub brushes off. We read him helping Robert to draw the cathedral thus an opening for his change in religion and finally getting to know more about it. Another symbolism of the cathedral is the monumental idea it hold. These are structures that are built with great expertise and require a lot of work and a co-operation, a thing that the narrator and the blind man do in the end in drawing up the cathedral together.
A good ending it is when Bub finds considerate peace in his life by overcoming the prejudices he had earlier on about something in life like blindness and insecurities. A loner he was he learns that Robert who was blind had more ability and strength than he thought about him.