What details in “Cathedral” make clear the narrator’s initial attitude toward blind people?

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sullymonster's profile pic

sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The narrator is a narrow man.  He and his wife seem happy, but she clearly shows her frustration at their isolation from the rest of the world.  She is excited at the idea of a visit from an old friend - too excited, as if this sort of vist happens rarely.  Our prickly narrator is surly about the idea from the get-go.

However, when he finds out the visitor is a blind man, he not only shows himself even more caustic but more ignorant.  He believes, for example, that all "the blind don't smoke" and that they must always wear glasses.  It is his own narrative thoughts, as well as his resistant attitude, that show us his negative attitude.  Take this quote:

"And his being blind bothered me. My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed."

Robert - a named character as opposed to the unnamed narrator - is clearly a bright, energetic, and joyful man.  He immediately contradicts the narrator's presuppositions.  Carver skillfully builds his theme by using Robert as a foil to all the narrator's prejudices, and by allowing the blind man to teach the protagonist "to see".

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The narrator of "Cathedral" is initially very close-minded about his wife's blind friend. 

When the narrator learns that his wife has made arrangements to have her blind friend visit her, he is certainly not enthused about the man's coming: "He was no one I knew. And his being blind bothered me." The narrator admits that his perception of blind people has come from what he has seen in movies: they "move slowly and never laugh."

Clearly, the narrator is very closed minded about this man. For instance, when his wife tells him that her friend has lost his wife, she explains that her friend met Beulah when she came to work for him. After a while they fell in love and were married in a small church wedding. The narrator adds, "Who'd want to go to such a wedding in the first place?"

In addition, the narrator seems to be uncomfortable about the blind man's coming to his house because his wife has made him her confidant. While she was married to an officer in the Air Force, she communicated with her blind friend Robert by sending tapes. After her marriage to the narrator, she has also sent tapes to Robert with descriptions of her husband, and details on what they have done and said.

Surprisingly, then, after Robert arrives, he wins over the narrator with his warm personality and he figuratively opens the narrator's eyes to deeper experiences than he has previously felt. 

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