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Blindness is both a physical disability and a mental inability. The former is so obvious and cannot be mistaken. However, the latter is a more relative psychological state in which one tails to recognize the significant personality of another one. The victim in this case takes for granted other people’s talents and abilities and is thus no better than the literally blind man who cannot see them at all but rather has a sense of recognition and appreciation.
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This phenomenon is mostly found in marriages that lack communication. Communication opens up avenues for appreciating a partner’s skill in something and in the process of this symbiotic recognition, the relationship is strengthened. With this insight in mind, this essay links the relationship between men and women to events in Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral’. Its area of specialization however will be the lack of communication relationships.
To begin with, the true meaning of love will be discussed. This will make it stand distinct from other feelings that may be easily confused for love. Love seems so much an obvious matter to warrant a definition yet it is one of those qualities, which we only realize how crucial they are when things go wrong. Otherwise, it they are taken for granted. It is impossible to begin to define love without putting in to consideration your life, all the people that have loved you and that you have in turn loved. We must think of the motions involved so as not to discredit the word its due nature.
Love is not, as many people think, a thought, a memory or some random token of affection. In its genuine nature, it is an instinct, a fire, that deeply fueled feeling that comes out in every encountered of a loved one. It is an overwhelming power that gives one hope, joy and a great amount unprecedented energy. Love comes uninvited, taking one by surprise until all your attention is diverted to it and every thing else has to wait. You let it in and do not remember opening the ‘door’ to it, Hence its blindness. However, many people mistake love for lust or a way of evading loneliness, true love is inevitable when it invades one’s heart, mind and soul.
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The short story ‘Cathedral’ was first published in March 1981 and earned several awards and nominations due to its popularity. Many critics agree Carver shifted his attention from normal issues to crucial but evaded ones in this short story. They believe that Carver must have reached the zenith of his career with this masterpiece collection (Meyer 183).
The story begins with the narrator seemingly unhappy with an upcoming visit by blind old friend of his wife. This followed by a flash back to the narration of how the wife of the narrator met Robert. Though the wife of the narrator has maintained contact with the blind man, this upcoming visit will be the first since the first time she saw him and many things have transpired; she married, divorced and remarried. Meanwhile, the blind man will spend the night at the narrator’s home on his way to Connecticut where he will be visiting his family. The wife of the narrator tells him that Robert, the blind man used to be inseparable with Beulah, his wife. The anonymous narrator finds this very awkward as he wonders how Beulah felt being loved by someone who does not see you.
Finally, Robert arrives. It is at this point that things start going astray. For a start, Robert is fully engaged into a conversation with the wife of the narrator with the latter only occasionally joining them. Lack of communication sets in as the stay goes on. After dinner, they all drink heavily but the narrator notice that Robert has taken more than enough and he turns on the TV. This last move is not taken lightly by his wife who is silently dismayed-yet again an evidence of lack of communication. As the wife goes on to get a robe, the narrator and Robert smoke marijuana. This still annoys her but she is numb and blind about it. What type of marriage is this where one stomachs the flaws of the other simply because love is blind? Carver goes out of his way to bring the picture of true love blindness in a marriage by juxtaposing it to poor or lack of communication and hence succeeds also in criticizing such lifetime commitments of tolerating the intolerable in the actual sense (Carver 1-32).
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The narrator’s observance should not be taken casually.He lacks social graces and even apprehensive of having to entertain Robert. He does not know what he should say or do. Evidently, he is suspicious and jealous of the former relationship between his wife and Robert. He is aware of his wife having told him about him and has even probably of his flaws. Pressure thus mounts up with each passing moment providing an avenue for the wreckage of their relationship being at stake for neglect of a vital marriage ingredient (Howe 43).The narrator feels insecure and guilty.
Like the characters in many of the works Carver, the main character is miserable. He is not content with job and envies his wife as I have mentioned in a few lines above and unconnected to others human beings. He is not happy with how his wife relates with people as well. He categorically states from the onset of the story that he was not of the idea of Robert paying them a visit. This behavior is closely linked to his inability to talk his mind. Consequently, he ends up tolerating situations he would not have were he open about his real feelings on them.
Carver has succeeded in supplying us with a different view of blindness through the blind man, Robert. He achieves this by expounding the encounter of Robert and the anonymous couple. The narrator has a very shortsighted view concerning blindness and ends up thinking that he is able understand he world of the blind man (Write Work Essays). In a sense, Robert manages to conquer the husband’s predisposition of primitivism, jealousy and failure to discern.
Since the onset of the story, the narrator is evidently challenged on matters of love. He recounts vividly crucial matters that may affect their marriage in a very simplistic and unconcerned attitude. For instance, it is embarrassing of how he narrates the story of his wife’s childhood lover. He adds that the man needs anonymity since he was only a childhood friend and should claim nothing now. As if this is not enough, he also tells of the death of Beulah, the wife to Robert the blind man with no qualm of conscience even in the presence of the bereaved. This demonstrates a blindness of other people’s emotions. Blindly enough, he passionless further questions the race of the deceased wife to the blind man proposing that she was a Negro owing to her name. What further insults can one stomach from a physically good sighted man but mentally blind?
The narrator’s character is distinctively contrasted to that of his wife in many ways. From the story, we learn that she has had a rather eventful past precisely speaking of an unstable marriage in the past, an attempt to commit suicide and above all, the current rocky marriage courtesy of her mentally blind husband. Despite all these shortcomings, it is still is evident that she is a sensible and sensitive woman. She develops a cordial rapport with Robert lest we forget that they have been in touch for close to ten years. Her reaction to the visit of Robert portrays generosity and courtesy hence it is a genuine reception. The case of her husband is all the same different since he is not at ease with the visit and presence of the blind man.
Despite his role in the play of the being the protagonist, the blind man Robert is apparently the hero of this story. He is a perfect example of one who has not let his disability impair the virtues of his life. Robert has fostered close relationships. This is evident and possible due to his open-mindedness, faithfulness and easy going (Answers.Com Essays). He is aware of the fact that his presence might be the cause of the narrator’s predisposition. He is not blind to having dominated the discussion with the wife of the narrator. Robert also makes efforts to develop a human rapport with the narrator and for sure succeeds other wise the sharing they had would have ended long ago. Consequently, there would have been no lesson for the blind husband as well as his ‘salvation’.
From Raymond Carver’s Cathedral, a motif of blindness juxtaposed with sight is paramount and recurs in the entire fictional work. He interwove this by deploying iron in the sense that the narrator who thinks he is physically fit by being sighted is challenged by a blind man who is seemingly better sighted than the self proclaimed good sighted husband. The narrator’s state changes from that of blindness into one of insight by the end of the story. This is achieved by his realization that he, apparently, has been blind courtesy of his own sense of insecurity and above all, ignorance. The latter is the worst of all types of blindness. All these realities dawning on the narrator are because of the courtesy call that Robert pays them. The latter heightens the sensitivities of the narrator by his empathy.
The narrator undergoes a perception metamorphosis. As the curtain of this story rises, we meet him in a blind state, possessing all the stereotypical links that match with his state. However, at the end, he is forced to revisit his take on blind people. Robert catalyses this reaction by his striking character which depicts confidence, self-assurance and empathy (Answers.Com Term papers). He extends these to the narrator by reaching out and unifying with him. The effect is felt. The narrator cultivates a perception of blindness not as an incapacity, but rather as a way of enhancement and liberation of awareness. One is not closed in a cocoon by sight.
It is ironical how a blind man can bring such insight to a physically normal man. In reality, Robert appears to see things that people who can see are not seeing. This levels him to the normal sighted couple. Carver grabs this analogy to demonstrate to us we are all equal. What you lack does not matter since; after all, it can be compensated in other ways. In our case, Robert succeeds in making the narrator see, a task the normal narrator and to extension his wife have not been able to accomplish.
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Through the motif of the cathedral, Carver shows us that a great deal might be accomplished via a unity and common purpose. He uses the blind man to support this argument by his success to draw a cathedral aided by the narrator. In such a moment we see a weak vessel being conjoined together by purpose to attempt what would otherwise being a difficult task to one person.
Doubtless, people are prone to judge others through wrong assumptions and prejudices. Such notions may have profound implications to the people or us that we impose them. Evidently, in this story, Robert is a victim of the prejudice of the narrator. He however succeeds in building a bond with his oppressor. The narrator’s initials thoughts on people who are blind changes by being proved wrong in the person of Robert. This change of tune occurs in a short span of a night as Carver expounds it in this 12-page short story. The climax is reached when the narrator begins to describe a cathedral and Robert touches his face. This touch removes him from a world of mental blindness to that of sight. Interestingly, he feels like he has been a taken from his house that may be interpreted as an exodus from his initial mental cocoon (Write Work Essays 2011).
In conclusion, if there is anyone who is to benefit from the narrator’s change of character, then definitely that must be his wife. Though the transitions to such cases do not come over night even in the nonfictional world, hope is there at the end. Communication will improve and this new state of affairs will pave a way for other key readjustments and improvements in the marriage life such as the replacement of ignorance with appreciation and discord, selfishness with unity in a purpose, generosity and open-mindedness. As the old adage goes, disability is not inability, after all.
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