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Cathedral

In: English and Literature

Submitted By tullis
Words 1177
Pages 5
Cathedral
There are three major characters in this short story. Two of which stay unnamed throughout the story, the husband and the wife. The third character is a middle-aged blind man named Robert. He is an old friend and previous employer of the wife. It has been ten years since they had seen each other in person, but they kept in consistent contact by sending each other recorded messages on tapes. When Robert’s wife Beulah passes his old employee, the young wife, more than happily opens her home to him.
“Cathedral” takes place in the household of the husband and wife. The wife’s old friend comes to visit and he stays the night after a lot of traveling for his wife’s funeral. The husband is uneasy about Robert staying in their home, not because he is a stranger to him but mainly because he is blind. He arrives just before dinner. They have a few drinks, eat, and return again to the living room to continue drinking. Robert and the wife talk for a while about events that have occurred in the past ten years they have been apart. The husband intentionally being rude turns on the television. This story seems to be set in the mid 1940’s or 1950’s. This is evident because the husband asks Robert if he has one. “My dear, I have two TVs. I have a color set and a black-and-white thing,” says Robert, and he can somehow tell that the television they are watching is a color set. The majority of “Cathedral” occurs in the living room.
Hours pass and the wife falls asleep on the couch after coming back downstairs from making their guest’s bed. Robert and the husband watch a late night television program about cathedrals around the world. As they are watching television the husband asks Robert if he knows what a cathedral is; what it looks like. Robert slowly admits that he in fact does not know what they look like, he only knows what he had learned that night about how they were built from the program. This in turn makes the husband feel bad. Robert asks him to describe what a cathedral looks like to him. Cathedrals are extremely detailed pieces of architecture built over many years by many generations. They are all different according to which time period they were constructed in, and they are almost indescribable. Yet the husband still makes an attempt to give Robert a visual explanation hoping to help him picture one. His description however is not accurate, and Robert cannot imagine what a cathedral looks like. We as readers can get an in-sight view on how the husband feels towards the blind man because this story is written in first person coming from him. In the beginning, background information about the relationship between the wife and her friend is given to us from the husband as he has been told. When their guest arrives, there is an uncomfortable tension coming from the husband towards him. It seems as though the blind man pays no heed to the snide remarks made towards him. We are unsure though because what we see comes from the husband’s eyes, and what we know comes from the thoughts in his mind. We are not allowed to understand what Robert is thinking or feeling because of the point of view this story is written from. However a sense of acceptance and contentment with himself can be determinded from the blind man’s actions and responses to the remarks made by the husband. The wife’s character is constant throughout this short story. The blind man develops a little as he makes a new friend, learns about cathedrals and what they look like. The husband changes the most. He starts off as an uptight man that is unwelcoming and rude to his guest. Not only is Robert his guest but he is also in mourning of his late wife, Beulah. The husband does not show sympathy towards him whatsoever, he actually somewhat mocks him. There is judgment and ignorance hidden in the husband’s thoughts. He thinks he knows what blind people are like from what he has seen in movies, although he has no idea. He has an intense misconception about who they are as people. He has no idea that they can be self-sufficient, just like any other human being. He actually fails to categorize them as normal people. He even stated that he believes they “move slowly and never laugh.” He is proven wrong as the story progresses. In that instance where the husband is trying to explain what a cathedral looks like, it is a turning point for his character. The husband’s ignorance is a literal take on society’s figurative blindness. It cannot be faith if one is using their eyes. Robert really is unable to use his eyes, he has no sense of vision. The husband choses to keep his eyes open; close his mind. He is unaccepting of strange things-ways outside of his own. We see this in today’s everyday life. People can be so close minded that when they are asked to step outside of their comfort zone they quickly shut down or put up a wall against the outside world. They do not think twice about giving something strange a chance, they deny it in an instant. Robert’s blindness symbolizes the innocence of those who are still naïve and trusting. They can believe in others without a sense of fear, and they do not think twice about trying something new or going outside of their comfort zone. The drawing that the husband does with Robert holding onto his hand is the step that we take when we try something new, and when we learn to accept things that are different. When the husband really does close his eyes when Robert tells him to, he is trusting in someone other than himself. He becomes secure in a faith. He clearly states he is not religious, but he has faith that no harm will come to him and they proceed to draw with both of their eyes closed. The wife wakes up and is frantically asking them what is going on. When we step out of the social norm we get criticized and speculated, asked “What’s going on…what are you doing? What’s going on?”, in an attempt to pull us back into the status quo; open our eyes. But when we keep our eyes closed and our minds open we can see, feel, and experience so much more than what we only see with our eyes open. We cannot afford to be close minded and so judgmental if we are trying to all live together in peace. We have to be accepting of others’ differences, whether they may be physical, mental, or religious. We are all humans and deserve to be treated as such, and equally. Things are not always as they seem at first and sometimes things just take a little getting warmed up to

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