How does the protagonist change in "Cathedral"?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The protagonist is the narrator. He is shy and self-conscious. He needs liquor to loosen up with people. He is afraid of strangers, and he feels jealous of the blind man named Robert who is coming to dinner because this stranger has a special relationship with the narrator's wife. The narrator's own relationship with her is obviously precarious. But he is pleasantly surprised to find that the visitor is very easy to get along with. This is probably because, being blind, Robert has had to put a lot of trust in other people. As the night wears on, the two men grow more friendly. They confide in each other. The narrator likes this man so much that he offers to smoke some pot with him. This would be a new experience for Robert, but he is the kind of man who likes new experiences. He seems more daring than many man who have normal vision. He doesn't have the existential angst that seems to characterize Carver's narrator. The narrator is not afraid of Robert's having a bad trip and spoiling the evening. He tells him:

"This stuff is pretty mellow," I said. "This stuff is mild. It's dope you can reason with," I said. "It doesn't mess you up."
"Not much it doesn't, bub," he said, and laughed.

The narrator finds he is having a surprisingly good time. He and Robert end up drawing a cathedral together, using a piece of wrapping paper and a pencil. Robert keeps his hand on top of the narrator's so that he can feel the form and perhaps the spiritual essence of the cathedral rather than see it. It is an experience remotely comparable to the fellowship craftsmen enjoyed in medieval times when they constructed real cathedrals together. It is like the last contemporary vestige of the unquestioning religious faith that prevailed in the art and architecture of older times. The protagonist will be less shy, less self-conscious, less uptight, less paranoid as a result of his experience with Robert, and he will have a better relationship with his wife in the future because they both share the same high regard for this blind man who sees more than many people with sight.