In "Cathedral," how does the blind man, Robert, give the isolated narrator, Bub, relief from suffering from his own kind of blindness?
On his first visit to her home, the extroverted blind friend of the narrator's wife interacts with the narrator by having the husband of his friend draw what he sees on the television; in doing so, the narrator allows Robert to share his sight through art; at the same time, the narrator shares Robert's inner vision of beauty and feeling. This act of sharing gives each man meaning, and as such, relieves suffering from the narrator as he obtains new insights.
When the blind visitor, Robert, and the narrator are left alone after the wife falls asleep, the narrator offers Robert some marijuana, and Robert says he will try it. Then, more uninhibited, Robert attempts to communicate with the husband by placing his hand over his while "bub" draws for him a cathedral that is being discussed on a television show. This tactile act makes the drawing attain another dimension as the two men share a vision together of the ancient church.
In another literary work entitled "The Secret Sharer," Joseph Conrad's captain of a ship takes on a stowaway and they become secret friends. As they finally part, the captain reflects upon this friend:
...no one in the world should stand now between us, throwing a shadow on the way of silent knowledge and mute affection. the perfect communion of a seaman with his first command.
It is this same "perfect communion" that occurs with Robert and the narrator because meaning has depended upon sharing the experience. Indeed, sharing has made all the difference in relieving the husband of his emotional "blindness" as he no longer feels shut out:
"I didn't feel like I was inside anything."
"It's really something," I said.