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Rebel with a Cause


Submitted By jmaroosis
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The Blind Leading the Blind It is a biological fact that the eyes are merely receptors for visual stimuli; the brain is where the real work is done. There are some fun experiments that prove this fact.

The “vase or face” image and the “Hermann grid illusion” are two examples (Eye tricks).
Did you see the vase or face first? Those dots seemingly flashing across a grid of black squares make my head spin. These simple experiments suggest that what we see is more, or less, than meets the eye. Interpretation of visual stimuli happens automatically for most. Just point your eyes in the direction of what you want to see and the image instantaneously appears. The inner, invisible, intangible characteristics require more than receptors and neurons to visualize. Thought and personal investment are required in the visualization of the intangible. In “Cathedral”, Raymond Carver suggests blindness is often an affliction of the heart and soul and not the eyes. Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” is a short story about a husband’s journey to enlightenment. A longtime friend of the wife comes to visit after the death of his wife. The wife meets the blind man, Robert, ten years prior while looking for a summer job. She becomes his assistant. The wife reads briefs, reports, and helps organize the blind man’s office. Over the years the wife and blind man keep in touch; corresponding by sending audio tapes through the mail (Carver). The visit from the blind man is not something the husband is excited about. He remains disconnected from the conversation most of the evening. When the wife falls to sleep, the husband is forced to engage with the blind man. With the persistence of the blind man, the husband engages in a conversation about cathedrals. It is through the process of describing the cathedrals to the blind man that the life of the husband is forever changed (Carver). As the narrator, the husband describes the events of the evening in retrospect. Character flaws of the husband spew off the page as he recants the events of the evening. He is a dislikable character that is disconnected from life and his wife. Tangible characteristics are all he can see: never engaging his heart and soul. Heartless stereotypes form the husband’s opinions. The expectation of the blind man to “move slowly and never laugh” admittedly comes from the movies (Carter 1111). Thoughtless assumptions about the blind man are quickly proven incorrect revealing who the true blind man is in “Cathedral”. Peering through the window scoping out the blind man, the first sight is not what he expected. The blind man is laughing with his wife. The wife continues to laugh as she walks the blind man into the house and is “beaming” as she is introducing the blind man to her husband (Carter 1114). This is all “amazing” to the husband, he doesn’t understand what his wife “sees” in the blind man (Carter 1114). Instead of trying to get to know the blind man, the husband focuses on the blind man’s “creepy” eyes and beard (Carter 1114). The husband’s lack of depth and understanding is apparent with his sarcastic tone and disconnect: he can’t see past the man’s obvious blindness. Turning a blind eye to the deep bond shared between his wife and the blind man has gone on for years. The husband doesn’t take interest in the things that his wife enjoys. The wife’s “main forms of recreation” are her poetry and sending audio tapes to the blind man (Carter 1112). The husband doesn’t acknowledge the friendship between the blind man and his wife. Never taking the time to listen to a single tape that his wife sent to the blind man, the husband prefers to stay in the dark. Living in physical darkness is something the blind man has come accustom to. He has adapted to his limitations. Even drawing “admiration” from the husband with the way he navigates his dinner plate (Carver 1115). The blind man’s vulnerability gives him an endearing quality. He is warm and approachable. Friendships come easy to the blind man. As a ham radio operator the blind man has made friends with people from all over the globe (Carter 1116). The humility of the blind man leaves his heart open to people. Placing the ad “Help Wanted- Reading to Blind Man” begins an enduring friendship of the blind man and the wife (Carver 1111). Bonding with the wife over the summer as they work together comes natural to the blind man. As the relationship grows over the summer, so does the visualization of the wife in the mind of the blind man. On her last day the blind man asks if he can touch her face; building the outer tangible shell to encase the person he knows her to be. The experience of the blind man“[touching] his fingers to every part of her face, her nose-even her neck,” is unforgettable for the wife (Carver 1111). The moment is so moving the wife writes a poem describing how this makes her feel. She uses the poetry to express her thoughts as the blind man touches her nose and lips (Carver 1112). At that moment setting all pride aside the wife becomes vulnerable, allowing the blind man to build his image of her. Building an image proves difficult for the husband. Trying to explain the tangible to the blind man teaches the husband how to “see”. As the two men watch and listen to a program describing cathedrals of the Middle Ages, the husband feels obligated to describe the physical characteristics to the blind man. After several minutes of descriptions like massive, big, tall, and really big cathedrals. The husband concludes “it just isn’t in [him] to do it” (Carver 1119). The humility of the husband opens the door for the blind man to teach the husband how to “see”. The lesson begins with a pen and some heavy paper. With the coaxing and encouragement from the blind man the husband draws “windows with arches…flying buttresses…and hung great doors” (Carver 1120). The blind man traces every pen mark building the image in his head as the husband draws. As the cathedral is coming to completion the blind man tells the husband to close his eyes and keep drawing. When the blind man is satisfied with the details of the cathedral he instructs the husband to “take a look” (Carver 1121). Keeping eyes closed the husband says “It’s really something” (Carver 1121). Without the constraints of tangible characteristics he could finally “see”. The husband finally sees something for more than just its physical characteristics. He can see what the cathedral stands for; “the generations of the same families [that] worked on a cathedral” (1118). He can see “the men who began their life’s work on them, who never lived to see the completion of their work” (1118). The intangible, invisible qualities that create the cathedral: are what the blind man could see all along. The husband finally realizes the blind man isn’t blind at all. Without the constraints of the tangible physical characteristics blocking his view, the blind man is able to see the heart and soul. As many philosophers, authors, and sculptors would agree, “The eyes are the windows to the soul”. Let us hope the soul of any reader of Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” is much richer for it.

Word Count: 1293
Lead: Making and analogy.
Works Cited
Carver, Raymond. “Cathedral.” Exploring Literature: Writing and Arguing About Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and the Essay. Ed. Frank Madden. Pearson Longman 2012. 1111. Print.
"Eye Tricks: Gallery of Visual Illusions." N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2013. .


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