In "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver , there are many references to religion and faith throughout the story. However, the cathedral itself is not brought up until near the end of the story. Prior to this, the narrator shows both ignorance and prejudice towards blindness, as well as a...
In "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver, there are many references to religion and faith throughout the story. However, the cathedral itself is not brought up until near the end of the story. Prior to this, the narrator shows both ignorance and prejudice towards blindness, as well as a lack of faith that borders on mockery. When he has an epiphany of sorts—of wondering whether Robert understands what people mean when they say "cathedral"—he and Robert engage in an activity of drawing a picture together. Though the cathedral itself is not the deciding factor in the narrator's learning experience, it is nonetheless the catalyst for the transformation.
Throughout the story, the narrator makes many negative comments about the blind. He mocks Robert for having a beard, contemplates the "pathetic" nature of Robert's wife "who could never see herself as she was seen in the eyes of her loved one," and seemed amazed that Robert was able to complete a task as simple as using a knife and fork correctly. He also mocks the act of praying, which showcases the difference between himself and Robert: "'Now let us pray,' I said, and the blind man lowered his head. My wife looked at me, her mouth agape. 'Pray the phone won't ring and the food doesn't get cold,' I said." While it is not faith or religion by itself that leads to the narrator's learning experience at the end of the story, this difference in attitude towards religion highlights the initial disconnect between the narrator and Robert.
When Robert asks for a description of the cathedral, the narrator comes to the realization that he cannot adequately describe it. After mockingly commenting on all the things that blind people can and cannot do, this is a major moment for him. However, having learned to 'see' with his hands—which is where the significance of his request ten years prior to touch the narrator's wife's face comes into play—he helps the narrator experience what it is like to be blind. This is the first and only real bond shared between the two men in the story, and it has a lasting effect on the narrator: "But I had my eyes closed. I thought I'd keep them that way for a little while longer . . . 'It's really something,' I said."
In short, the cathedral by itself does not symbolize the narrator's transformation, but its connection to faith and religion—a major difference between the two men—turns it into a catalyst for both creating a bond between them as well as giving the narrator the chance to learn from his ignorance and prejudice against the blind.