What is the transformation of the narrator in "Cathedral"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The transformation of the narrator in this wonderful short story from Carver shows his move from being a rather selfish and insensitive individual who feels slightly threatened by Robert's presence to one who experiences an epiphany and begins to see the possibility for transformation in his own life as he engages in a form of creative expression. He is presented as an isolated individual whose marriage is experiencing difficult times through the way in which he is becoming alienated from his wife. 

When Robert first arrives, the narrator makes various faux pas, much to the disgust of his wife. He makes direct reference to the view on the train, even though Robert is blind, and then turns on the television when he gets bored of the conversation:

Finally, when I thought he was beginning to run down, I got up and turned on the TV. 

The moment of epiphany for the narrator comes when Robert asks him to draw a cathedral for him. Even though it feels very strange and odd, he does as Robert asks, with his eyes closed. When Robert asks him to open his eyes and have a look at what he has drawn he keeps them closed and experiences a sudden feeling of liberation, space and possibility:

My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn't feel like I was inside anything.

The narrator, through literally being forced into contact with Robert and being asked to draw something experiences a different way of looking at the world and the capacity that he has for transformation in his own life. 


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