Soothsayer

Raymon Carver’s “Cathedral” is one of the most interesting stories I have read in a while. I think the characters are incredibly authentic and that the plot has many lessons laden within to teach its readers. “Cathedral” has an everyday element about it that every person can find their own little corner of thought to think about and lose themselves in the diction, syntax and overall plot and derive a plethora of significant and potentially life altering realizations.

Carver’s narrator in “Cathedral,” for the lack of better terms, is a fucking asshole. The character throughout nearly the entire piece made comments about everything that most definitely established his character as less than pleasing. For instance, I immediately began to attribute qualities to him that are alluded to but not necessarily definite. When the wife character began to discuss with her husband about Robert’s, the blind man, wife, the husband mentions, “Beulah! That’s a name for a colored woman. Was his wife a Negro?” Initially I up roared in laughter to think of course that that is a “name for colored women,” being colored myself and never hearing that name. Ultimately however, I wanted to associate the narrator with being racist, and perhaps he is, but it made me question exactly how racist he was. Such a quality effectively causes the reader to dislike the narrator.

Carver constructs the narrator to be this incredibly insensitive person who is completely ignorant about the blind. I thought it was rather sobering to actually read this literature and to realize that there are actually people who can be so ridiculous as to make such comments or to have incoherent beliefs or insecurities about the disabled. I have heard comments about the blind before or other forms of disability, however they were, as hurtful as it can be, comical in nature. It was very interesting to see that this character, the narrator, actually believed in his ridiculous ideas. Literature being a reflection of society even if hyperbolized can have that quality of helping one to question their surroundings and actually hold their world accountable for rationality.

The blind character Robert and the wife continued to make me smile throughout the story. Their relationship was so fortified even as the years past it actually grew stronger because of the tapes. I thought that was one of the most beautiful things I had ever read. The tapes, recordings of their voices mailed across the country keeping them together in a sense and being each of their catharsis. I think the tapes are an integral part of this piece because it actually puts the two friends on the same realm of communication. In person, the wife is always on a higher level because she can use sight and sound and gather information through both of those no intangible senses; Robert is only allowed to use his hearing. So, inevitably they are missing elements of their communication during such session. The tapes, however, eliminate the sight, and put both characters on the same level, so it basically levels the playing field and they continued to develop over the ten years as equals. This makes me think about modern social networking, about how different we will be in ten years relative to how we would be without the such.

The single most beautiful element of “Cathedral” is the scene where Robert request to touch the wife’s face. “On her last day in the office, the blind man asked if he could touch her face. She agreed to this. She told me he touched his fingers to every part of her face, her nose—even her neck,” I thought that the husband describing this was perfect, simply because, it is obvious that he is a little uncomfortable with the idea of another man, blind or not, touching his wife’s face, and the whole act is a symbol of how beautiful things can be without even seeing them. This image of Robert feeling the face of the wife to “see” her is so powerful because it is a testimony to the beauty people can miss in the world from being so one-sided. For instance, in music, if people are only obsessed with the image of the band and not so much the music, for which reasons do we buy their albums? Yes, there is a great value in images, but it should not dictate how the other senses should judge. For example, if a less than attractive woman has a beautiful voice, we should appreciate her sound just the same, not the sound of some mildly attractive woman with a less than horrible sound.

The final scene in “Cathedral” is the most powerful. Robert actually connects with the narrator so much that the become physically close, when prior, the narrator scoffed at the idea of even having a blind man in his house. The two connect through the narrator’s preferences which I did not like because he was the bad person in general. The Robert seemed even more benevolent that the wife built him up to be by being so accommodating to the inclinations of the narrator with the drugs and the television programs. It was interesting to see the narrator who is otherwise incredibly descriptive, have difficulty describing a cathedral. In the piece Robert is dependant on the couple to get around the house and get things for him, but it is apparent that the roles change when Robert teaches the narrator to let go of his insecurities and draw the cathedral with his eyes closed. It’s the first time we actually see Robert giving instructions and not taking them.

I must say that I was disappointed with the ending, it left me wanting more. I am generally used to being left breathless, but “Cathedral” had me more “panting” than anything. It almost reached climax that would have sent me flying, but it just missed it by a little mark. Perhaps that was Carver’s intent, however, I wouldn’t count one it. Nonetheless, “Cathedral” was a great piece and I would love to see more like it.

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