A Story of Blind Faith "Cathedral"ÃÂ is a short story with an underlying theme of loneliness shrouded in a maze of metaphor. The loneliness of not having friends, of loosing loved ones, of not being able to witness the world that surrounds them, these are just some of the themes of this story.
The story is based on the loneliness of its characters. The man describing his wife's history with depression opens up the story. From the way he describes her past, he seems to be kind of insensitive. When describing her ex-husband, Robert, the blind man, and the suicide attempt, the husband seems like he is very disconnected. From his tone, it sounds as if he doesn't think her past is any of his business, and that is why he seems insensitive.
In the telling of the wife's past, the husband also gives some background information on Robert.
He tells how Robert put an ad in the paper for someone to read for him. Robert owns, or somehow manages a business, we don't find out which, but he has some control role. While this has a business function, clearly Robert also is looking for someone to spend time with.
As for himself, the husband does not tell much about his past. We find out from his wife that he does not have any friends and that he spends all his time in the house. His attitude and way of treating people explains this to us, he probably doesn't have any friends because those that would be his friends, think he is a jerk.
In this story, a blind man named Robert comes to visit a woman who is an old and very close friend. This visit is very disturbing to the woman's husband, who has some problems with the blind man's handicap and the man's closeness to his wife. The husband's problem with Robert is that he is "different"ÃÂ. The husband is not accustomed to people who are different coming into his house, let alone spending the night.
We see this attitude of the husband against people that "are not normal"ÃÂ to him several times. Throughout the story, the husband makes snide comments that most people would think are very improper, even if it is only said to a person's wife in private. First, when the husband asks about the blind man's wife, he is showing some racial prejudice- "Her name was Beulah. Beulah! That's a name for a colored woman.
"ÃÂWas she a negro?' (922)"ÃÂ Now I don't know if the name Beulah is an African name, but I did go to school in a town named Beulah. Beulah was the name of a young German girl whose father founded the town. So this statement by the husband in the story not only has some racial prejudice, but really doesn't not know what he is even talking about. He is trying to explain to his wife why does not like Robert being in his house, but he doesn't make any sense at all. He is also trying to convince himself that what he is saying is true.
It may just be that the man is insensitive of the feelings of others. This insensitivity is highlighted when the husband is contemplating the situation of Robert's wife, on her deathbed (923). He finds it hard to fathom a woman whose husband has never seen her. He glosses over the event of Robert's wife's death as if it is a tragedy that they were so happy together and the blindness has no importance to their relationship; the husband just can not get over this. The husband pities the two as if they were crazy or something, when he is the one with who cannot grasp reality.
The husband is very jealous of Robert having his wife's undivided attention. The husband acts like a child when his wife will not pay attention to him. He does not realize that the comments that he made earlier made his wife mad and she does not really want her husband to interact with Robert on fears that he will embarrass her.
When the husband starts to try to describe the Cathedral that the television program is showing on the screen, the drugs act as something to bring the two together. The husband starts to become frustrated with the fact that he is unable to verbally describe the sight and structure of the building. When Robert takes the husbands hand to draw on the paper, the husband begins to realize that even the blind, in a way, can see.
Later in the story, the husband and Robert start to smoke some marijuana. This could have two meanings in the story. First, it could have a spiritual meaning with the common use of the marijuana in eastern religions. The drawing of the picture in this case, could be part of the meditating process. Robert represents the "wise old man"ÃÂ of the story, and he is trying to show the husband how his thoughts on blindness are wrong. In the end of the story, the husband apparently has an insight that his ideas were wrong, but we don't know for sure.
Then again, it could just be a personal type insertion by the author who grew up during the sixties. This story is pretty vague in its meaning. All the metaphors and underlying meanings can be taken as many ways and there are readers.
The general feeling of the story is that in the end, people with very wrong opinions of the world and other people, can be changed with a small act of kindness. Those small acts of kindness toward people who lack understanding, and may have neither kindness nor understanding can change people's view of everything. The message is that people can change for the better if only given the chance and a shove. That just my opinion, I could be wrong.