Cathedral by Raymond Carver
Cathedral created by Raymond Carver in 1983 tells about a blind man Robert who visits the house of the main heroine with whom he is connected by a long friendship. Their friendship has begun when the blind man hired the woman to work for him. The tasks, which she performed, were the following, She read stuff to him, case studies, reports, that sort of thing. She helped him organize his little office in the county social service department. Since that time, they became good friends who understood each other even without any words perfectly. After some time, the woman left the job and they stopped contacting each other.
Some years later, a grief happened in the blind mans life as he had lost his wife Beulah. They had been together for eight years. The blind man went to visit his wifes relatives in Connecticut where he met his old friend. She proposed him to stay for some days at her house. There the blind man met her husband who is the narrator of the story. The blind man demonstrates sufficient fluency of his body, since all his movement cannot be called clumsy. His inner intelligence and demeanor surprises the narrator who thinks of the blind as fully helpless and insecure people who wear black glasses and are afraid to take a step forward. However, the blind man whom the husband already knows is completely different. The master of the house is surprised by the guests behavior, as the blind man is laughing, joking, and trying to support fun in their conversation.
Despite his disability, Robert shows himself as a man who is content with his life. He constantly repeats the phrase I'm comfortable, because he is really comfortable. He has become accustomed to his blindness, since he had learned how to live in the world of the blind. Despite their blindness, blind people have well developed hearing and spatial orientation. One might see it on the example of the blind man. He has an inner vision, which allows him to draw. Together with the husband of the main heroine, he draws a cathedral. In my opinion, this moment is of a great importance as it helps to understand the inner world of all the blind and come to the conclusion that it is as rich as of those who can see. Moreover, their world might be even richer than the one of the people who can see. The cathedral is not only an image. It is the epitome of the blind visitor, who unlike the narrator is as hard and solid as the cathedral.
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I think that the author of the story succeeded in showing the peculiarities of the life of blind people and the way they see the world on the example of Robert. A cathedral plays a particular role in this story, since it is the symbol of the inner state of blind people. However, from my point of view, this story is not about blind people. It is about people who can see. This story is about how a blind person can become a teacher of life for a person who can see. The image of a cathedral is of particular importance in view of the fact that it helps the blind guest to show to his interlocutor the beauty and harmony that exists within every human being. Usual vision is not able to reveal the harmony and beauty. The truth is the opposite. Many people who can see are unable to discover the beauty of the world and enjoy it. In this context, blind people can be closer to the truth, beauty and harmony rather than those who can see.
The main essence of this life story is that the humans blindness is not determined by their inability to see external objects that surround them. Therefore, blindness is actually inability to see the true beauty that lies in the inner world of an individual. This is the reason that it is the narrator who is blind, not Robert. Robert cannot see external objects, but he is endowed with a much more important ability, namely the ability to see the inner beauty and harmony. For this reason, his blindness is only a physical, but not spiritual, while the blindness of the narrator is spiritual. The outcome of their co-creation of the cathedral is the change in the narrators inner state. The narrator finally opens his inner vision and realizes the truth. Now he can see. Through the insight of his blind guest, the narrator finds a new philosophy of life, discovering his own spiritual potential. Who would have thought that a blind man who sees nothing would be able to become a teacher for a sighted person and open his eyes to the true nature of things? It is really amazing, first of all for the narrator who treated blind people with a certain amount of irritation and contempt.
It was a blind man who helped the narrator to discover himself and find a spiritual foundation, which, unlike his blind guest, he did not have before meeting his new friend. Thank to his guest, the narrator found a way to opening his essence as an individual. The blind man became a teacher for the narrator who revealed to him the need to learn something new including about own self. The philosophy of the blind man is quite simple: life is beautiful in spite of all the suffering that it can bring to people. Furthermore, life requires peoples permanent self-improvement and self-discovery, as learning never ends.
What can we learn about our own lives thank to the story? What does this story teach us, its readers? In my opinion, the story is of particular value to us due to the fact that it allows us to look at our lives with new eyes and ask ourselves whether we are close to the truth of life. Are we sighted? Or maybe we are as blind as the storyteller? If we are blind as the storyteller then we need to learn from the blind Robert, who might be our teacher and guide. We should strive to be like him, the eternal Socrates for whom the truth of life is of paramount importance. What is the truth of life? It is an inner harmony, which is the spiritual foundation for any person. It is a condition when a person like Robert knows who he/ she is and what his/her essence is.
Despite its small amount, Cathedral can have much to teach the modern reader, who often loses the ability to self-knowledge and self-improvement, becoming a blind person. I believe that the objective of any person, regardless of whether he/ she can see or not, is the ability to find his/ her inner harmony. Only the knowledge of inner harmony can lead to knowledge of the external harmony, the harmony of the world. For this reason, the inner image of the cathedral might be so beautiful that one would not want to open his/ her eyes...