Blind Freeing the Blind: Transcendence in "Cathedral"

Rarely does a story portray self-discovery and personal enlightenment as honestly and tenaciously as Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral.” This story depicts the encounter between an initially close-minded narrator and a free-thinking blind man. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that both characters need each other in order to evolve and attain fresh perspectives. Carver achieves this end by embedding the reader into the story, through his use of the limited and progressive narrational point-of-view. He explores the theme of transcendence through his use of tone, setting, imagery, and character development in order to portray the narrator’s climactic enlightenment.

The tone of “Cathedral” initially contains a considerable amount of indigestible satire, which Carver represents in the form of choppy, staccato-esque sentences. The narrator (who is commonly referred to as “Bub”) speaks sardonically and indifferently to the people around him – regularly displaying an air of nonchalance regarding his wife. He belittles her frequently – largely due to his overall, insecure nature – and her longtime friendship with the blind man embitters him deeply. He is essentially “walled in by his own insecurities and prejudices.” (Nesset 116) He...

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