Raymond Carvers Cathedral Essay

This essay has a total of 1274 words and 7 pages.

Raymond Carvers Cathedral




the Reference Resistance Gate: JOSePH's eSSAYSAwakenings: Raymond Carver's
"Cathedral"
(c)1996 Joseph Holmes-Peters


"For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in
part; but then I shall know even as I am known" (1 Corinthians 13). The narrator
of Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" is a man living a life of monotony, continuously
feeding the cold and bigoted mind that we witness for the first part of the
story. The process of guiding Robert through the drawing of the cathedral,
removes the narrator from that dark looking glass and initiates a tranformation
in which he is compelled to meet himself face to face; this awakening stirs the
narrator's humility, imagination, and faith.
It is human nature to embrace preconceptions regarding the facets of daily life,
from politics to people. It is, as well, innate to consider oneself better than
another. An awakening such as the narrator's, however, ruptures the protective
shield that surrounding steadfast biases, and forces the person to assess their
position in the greater schema of humankind. A bias that surfaces early on, is
the mention of Robert's wife, "Beulah!" The narrator exclaims, "That's a name
for a colored woman." (Carver, "Cathedral," 182) Here, by attaching a stereotype
to a simple name, he exhibits the precise indiscretion of a closed-minded bigot,
and then eventually reaches humility through his awakening. The narrator
possesses several other prejudices that also hinder his humility. Later on, for
example, the narrator sees Robert for the first time and the man's appearance
startles him: "This blind man, feature this," he says, "he was wearing a full
beard! A beard on a blind man!" (183) Later still, the narrator reinforces his
portrayal of an ignorant, presumptuous man when he notices that Robert doesn't
"use a cane and he [doesn't] wear dark glasses, [having] always thought dark
glasses were a must for the blind." (183) However, the narrator sheds these
stereotypes once he engages in the 'cathedral' conversation with Robert; the two
begin to compare how well each of them envisions a cathedral. For instance,
Robert gives facts that he has just heard off the television, demonstrating his
limited knowledge. The narrator then attempts a description of a Cathedral,
"they're really big," the narrator explains, "they're massive;" (188), and
subsequently realizes just how little he knows as well. The narrator realizes
that with the gift of sight he can really see little more than a blind man . . .
And it is here that the narrator awakens to his newly humbled -- equal --
position alongside Robert. Up to this point, the narrator fancied himself a
superior person because of his sight. Suddenly, with this moment of awakening,
down came that shield protecting his closed-minded presumptions.
By engaging in the same action that helped him realize his humbleness, the
narrator retrieves his imagination. For so long he had been stifling his innate
creativity, choosing instead to allow outside forces create images and art for
him. Robert coerces the narrator into sketching a cathedral, unlocking the door
behind which the narrator had been keeping his imagination. This brings to light
just how important and self-fulfilling that imagination had once been to him and
could be again: "So I began. First I drew a box that looked like a house. It
could the house I lived in. Then I put a roof on it. at wither end of the roof,
I drew spires. Crazy . . . I put in windows with arches. I drew flying
buttresses. I hung great doors. I couldn't stop." (189/190) This sketch has
initiated another awakening. That is, the narrator placed in perspective what a
steady diet of television and drinking had been holding him back from; here he
is reacquainted with his estranged imagination, not able to stop drawing because
with the sketch comes a flood of new spiritual enlightenment.
The narrator doesn't rest here for long, however, forced to stretch his
imagination even farther when the television goes off the air. Now the narrator
is forced to use his imagination in its purity. "'Close you eyes now,' the blind
man said to me. I did it. I closed them just like he said . . . 'Keep them that
way,' he said. He said, 'Don't stop now. Draw.'" (190) The narrator completes
his drawing and, without even opening his eyes, knows and feels its beauty
because he was compelled to draw by his own mind, unaided by external
imaginations. "My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I
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