The characters in the Cathedral stories undergo the same anguish and agony as the characters in previous stories. Their prospects for the future, however, are better, largely due to their increased ability to sympathize, empathize, understand, and love. Their emotional resources have grown appreciably. The strongest examples can be drawn from the two best stories in the collection: "Cathedral" and "A Small Good Thing."
In "Cathedral" a blind man visits the narrator and his wife, who had worked for the blind man ten years before. The narrator is unhappy about the visit; he is both self-conscious and jealous. Both feelings recede, however, in the presence of the blind man, particularly in response to his naturalness and geniality. It is not long before the narrator begins to enjoy the blind man's company and becomes worried that he may not be able to visualize a cathedral from a verbal description that the narrator gives him as the two attend to a television show about cathedrals. The narrator's description of the cathedral is inadequate partly because of the blind man's impaired vision, but largely because of the narrator's own blindness to spiritual and human values. In a remarkable moment of imaginative vision, Carver has the blind man hold the narrator's hand as he draws a cathedral. The experience they share involves more than an intellectual comprehension of a cathedral. It evokes a deep, rich joy that transcends the superficial relationship...
(The entire section is 500 words.)