In the the short story "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver, how do the personality traits of the two men in the story create dramatic tension? Give at least three opposing traits.

The two main characters in "Cathedral" are the narrator (who is unnamed in the story) and Robert, a blind man and an old friend of the narrator's wife. Between these two characters, there is a strong tension, and although the reader would have trouble spotting exactly why, we can track some personality traits for both of them that contribute to creating and maintaining the tense atmosphere. First, Robert is friendly while the narrator is not; second, Robert makes his wife laugh whereas she does not laugh when her husband talks; third, although jealousy never appears in the story—one can easily spot that it exists between them; last but not least, one character has eyesight but he doesn'

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The two main characters in Raymond Carver's 1981 short story "Cathedral " are the unnamed narrator and Robert, a blind man and an old friend of the narrator's wife. Between these two characters, there is a strong tension, and although the reader would have trouble spotting exactly why,...

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The two main characters in Raymond Carver's 1981 short story "Cathedral" are the unnamed narrator and Robert, a blind man and an old friend of the narrator's wife. Between these two characters, there is a strong tension, and although the reader would have trouble spotting exactly why, we can track some personality traits for both of them that contribute to creating and maintaining the tense atmosphere.

First, Robert, the blind man, is a friendly man: "They’d become good friends, my wife and the blind man" (page 1) and also "He said he’d have a lot of friends there if he ever wanted to go visit those places" (page 7). On the other hand, the narrator is unsociable and feels uncomfortable with the whole situation:

“I don’t have any blind friends,” I said. “You don’t have any friends,” she said. “Period" (page 3).

Second, Robert is a fun guy who makes the narrator's wife laugh, while—at least through the story—the narrator elicits no smiles or sympathy from her. In fact, their dialogues express resentment and aggressiveness:

"What’s wrong with you?” she said. “Are you drunk?” (page 3).

One can easily spot that, although the word "jealousy" never appears in the story, the narrator is clearly jealous of the special bond Robert and his wife keep.

Last but not least, Robert is blind but the narrator has functional eyes. However, at the end of the story, once the narrator closes his eyes in order to draw the cathedral together with Robert, he seems to realize that his vision is, nonetheless, limited, as there are things out there that escape from his perception: "I can’t tell you what a cathedral looks like. It just isn’t in me to do it" (page 12). It is not until he closes his eyes that he can actually see: "My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything."

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In Raymond Carver's short story, "Cathedral," the two central characters, the narrator and Robert are opposite of each other in many ways--these ways create dramatic tension in the story. The narrator is jealous of Robert's relationship with his wife and this starts the story off on a tense note. Robert has a close relationship with the narrator's wife and this stands in contrast with the narrator's strained relationship with his wife. He also doesn't understand Robert's blindness so between his jealousy and ignorance, makes comments that are rude or offensive.

Robert, on the other hand, is kind, patient, and even-tempered. He recognizes the narrator's discomfort with him and doesn't have a problem with it.  While the narrator fumbles along through the story and at times, insults Robert, his even temperament makes the narrator's sarcasm fall short. The tension created between these two men culminates in a moment when they are literally on the same page, drawing a sketch of a cathedral. In this moment, the tension is dissolved as the narrator understands what it is like to be blind and vulnerable.

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