In what ways is this story about communication and connectedness?

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For most of the story the narrator is unable either to connect or communicate with Robert in any meaningful sense. Robert is blind, and this creates what seems to be an insuperable barrier between him and the narrator. Yet the possibility of breaking down this barrier is nonetheless there from the outset.

The narrator's wife shows the way. Years ago, she worked for Robert, reading to him one summer. In subsequent years she'd kept in touch by sending him tapes. And at their last parting, Robert had touched her face, communicating something of the connection he'd developed to her over the course of that unforgettable summer.

The narrator's world is somewhat narrow and insular. He doesn't understand Robert's blindness and, frankly, doesn't want to. In a sense he is more blind than Robert because, unlike Robert, he lacks the ability to communicate and connect with the wider world around him. Ironically, it is only when he closes his eyes and allows his hand to be guided by Robert that he truly feels a part of the world he has so often scorned.

This life-changing epiphany allows the narrator not just to connect to Robert, but also to his wife. Now, for the first time, he understands just how she must have felt when Robert touched her face; a very special connection with the mind's eye of another human being.

lclapka | Student

The themes of communication and connection are prominent throughout Carver's, "Cathedral." Initially, Robert, the blind man, is presented as a dear companion/friend of the narrator's wife. The narrator's wife connected with Robert while working for him and they kept in touch by communicating through tape recordings. At one point while working for Robert, the narrator's wife experienced a deep connection with him after sharing an intimate moment of Robert touching her face as a way of "seeing" her. This moment was so significant for the narrator's wife that she had attempted to write a poem about the interaction. 

The narrator, on the other hand, is less interested in meeting the blind man that his wife admires and is rather skeptical of his visiting their home. The narrator seems to be uncomfortable with Robert's blindness and his inability to relate to him. Furthermore, he does not understand his wife's near obsession with him. After Robert's arrival, the narrator remains skeptical of the blind man and Carver illustrates their interactions as quite awkward. 

Towards the end of the story, the narrator and Robert are forced to interact exclusively as the narrator's wife has fallen asleep on the couch. It is at this point when these two characters connect. The narrator feels inclined to describe what is being shown on the television screen, a cathedral, to the blind man. The blind man requests that they draw the cathedral together. While drawing, Robert then asks the narrator to close his eyes. It is at this point that the narrator experiences the drawing in the same way that the blind man does. This is the point of deepest connection and communication between the narrator and the blind man. Furthermore, Carver seems to present a certain level of comfort for the narrator at this point in the narrative, connecting the narrator's interaction with the blind man with his wife's intimate interaction with him at the beginning of the story. 

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