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Essay on The Blind Heart in Carver’s Cathedral

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The Blind Heart in Raymond Carver's Cathedral

A person’s ability to see is often taken for granted as it is in "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver. Although the title suggests that the story is about a cathedral, it is really about two men who are blind, one physically, the other psychologically. One of the men is Robert, the blind friend of the narrator’s wife; the other is the narrator-husband himself. The husband is the man who is psychologically blind. Carver deftly describes the way the husband looks at life: from a very narrow-minded point of view. Two instances in particular illustrate this. The first is that the husband seems to believe that the most important thing to women is being complimented on their looks; the second is
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And the husband’s vulnerability is shown is shown in his hostility to the blind man, whom he rightly suspects of having a psychologically more intimate relationship with his wife than he, with all his emotional blindnesses, is able to have.

As the story continues it exposes the many things that the husband fails to realize. For example, the husband neglects to recognize that Robert can feel. Robert commented about the train ride from the city that he’d "nearly forgotten the sensation" (1055). The husband does not understand that what blind people cannot see they can experience by feeling and hearing. The husband does not see what is underneath the skin or what is behind a face. The husband sees people and things at face value; he doesn’t look beneath the surface. In contrast, the blind man "sees" things with his ears, his hands, and his heart. Robert does not let the fact that he is handicapped affect how he perceives people and the things around him. Carver illustrates this when the husband observes, "The blind man has another taste of his drink. He lifted his beard, sniffed it, and let it fall. He leaned forward on the sofa. He positioned his ashtray on the coffee table, then put the lighter to his cigarette. He leaned back on the sofa and crossed his legs at the ankles" (1057) He did this just as anyone could have done. He doesn’t let the fact that he is
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