In "Cathedral," why does the narrator continually refer to Robert as the "blind man," rather than by name?  

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It may be a mistake to attach too much significance to the fact that the narrator keeps referring to Robert as "the blind man." When an author gives a character a particular identifying habit or physical trait, he has to keep reminding the reader of it or the reader is likely to forget it. Such an identifying mark is sometimes called a "shtick." It is of the utmost importance that the reader visualize Robert as blind, but the name Robert is of no great importance. This is largely a matter of narrative technique.

In The Catcher in the Rye, for example, Salinger keeps reminding the reader that Holden Caulfield is wearing a red hunting hat. This helps the reader visualize the hero, and it also serves to characterize him as still a kid trying to be a grown-up, as well as possibly to characterize him as someone who is "hunting" for something. The hunting cap is a "shtick." There is probably no better word to describe these literary devices.

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