Cathedral Raymond Carver Analysis Essay Example

  • Category: Books, Literature,
  • Words: 779 Pages: 3
  • Published: 25 May 2021
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In Cathedral by Ray Carver the narrator finds out his wife had invited a blind visitor over and is at first bitter and negative about it due to his negative thoughts of blind people but changes after spending time with the blind man at the end of the story. There are many uses of symbolism in this story, some are very direct and obvious like the cathedral which the story was titled after. There are also more hidden hints of symbolism in the story like the tapes the narrator’s wife and the blind man use to communicate. 

In the story blindness overall can be symbolic to how even though the narrator is not blind, he only looks while the blind man is able to see even though he is physically blind. This is because the narrator just looks at things and takes them at face value while compared to the blind man who even though cannot see, takes a deeper look at what him, and other people experience. One example of this is when the narrator himself says “All this without his having ever seen what the goddamned woman looked like. It was beyond my understanding” (Carver 3) which shows that the narrator admits that he can’t understand how someone can live with or understand someone they cannot physically see. The author also admits “My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed” (Carver 1) which shows he just bases his thoughts of blind people off what he sees from tv. While the blind man is seeing past what other people see/look at even though he is blind. 

Another possible use of symbolism in the story is blindness being symbolic to true sight even though it seems like it would be the opposite. In the beginning of the story the narrator makes multiple negative comments about blind people such as saying, “A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to” (Carver 1) and also later in the story says “Now this same blind man was coming over to sleep in my house” (Carver 3) which shows that the narrator obviously doesn’t want the blind man to come over to his house. But the narrator doesn’t give any reason for exactly why he dislikes this blind man other than for the fact that he is blind. This shows that the narrator is ironically blinded by ignorance because his negative stereotype of blind people, which he himself says was only through the TV “My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed” (Carver 1), while the blind man who can’t see is able to appreciate other people and see them for who they are while the narrator is blinded by his ignorance. 

Yet another source of symbolism in the story is the tapes exchanged between the blind man and the narrator’s wife which is symbolic of substitution. The blind man and the narrator’s wife kept in touch which each other by sending tapes to each other to communicate. According to the narrator they went back and forth for a while and even got personal with each other “On another tape, she told him about her divorce. She and I began going out, and of course she told her blind man about it. She told him everything, or so it seemed to me” (Carver 2) this shows that the narrator’s wife and the blind man had become very close with each other even though they were only talking through tapes over the years.  

At the end of the story there is a large piece of symbolism one that the entire story is titled around, and it is the Cathedral. At first the narrator had little to no care about cathedrals stating “The truth is, cathedrals don’t mean anything special to me. Nothing. Cathedrals. They’re something to look at on late-night TV. That’s all they are” (Carver 12). But then the blind man suggests that they draw together with their eyes closed. When the narrator and the blind man draw the cathedral together, they both experience the same thing which is drawing, but also not looking at the same time, which allows the narrator to finally see compared to just looking, which he was doing before “But I had my eyes closed. I thought I’d keep them that way for a little longer. I thought it was something I ought to do” (Carver 13). 

There are many sources of symbolism in Cathedral by Raymond Carver this varies from obvious ones such as the cathedral which the story is named after. To more underlying ones like blindness being symbolic for ignorance in the form of the narrator being blind to the lifestyle of blind people. While something many people might overlook like the tapes, to blindness being symbolic of the difference between looking vs seeing and how even though the narrator isn’t blind he is only looking while the blind man is seeing.



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