A Whole New World

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate September 2001

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There are many people in this world who take human contact for granted. Many don't understand how important it is in learning and developing into a human being. If everyone were to isolate themselves from individuals around them, it would create many problems and the world wouldn't be a friendly place. As the reader sees in Raymond Carver's short story "Cathedral," the narrator develops this particular theme about how salvation lies in human contact and connection. His uses of the particular character action as well as their attitude throughout the story help to develop this major theme.

Before the narrator and Robert, the blind man, ever meet, the reader can see their difference in manners and ways of viewing the world. Before the narrator met his wife, she was hired by Robert to read for him. After much contact and spending of time with each other, a long lasting friendship between the two of them developed and they became very close.

On the last day of work, before the narrator's wife left to leave, Robert asked her if he could "touch her face." This one little action presented in the story, however very important because it illustrated key characteristics of Robert and the narrator's wife. First, the reader can see how important this was to the wife because she wrote poems about this experience after it happened. Also, this particular action of Robert showed the reader of his desire to learn more about the world about him. He wanted to gasp every detail that he could out of life.

The narrator's nature is revealed to be quite the opposite Robert's. First of all, the narrator was very close-minded. He lives a very isolated life and his wife even stated that he didn't have "any friends, Period." He takes a lot for granted. Instead of thinking of Robert as a human being, he sees him as a handicap and makes a point to address him as the "blind man" in a "matter of factly tone" of voice. He doesn't see him as a good friend of his wife whom he would like to get to know more and make feel comfortable, which is what he should be feeling. I thought it was rather sad how his attitude towards Robert is during the beginning of the story. For example, he makes a heartless remark about how he's going to take Robert bowling. That was a very caustic remark to make considering Roberts situation. It is also obvious that Robert knew something about the Narrator from the tapes he received from the wife, whereas the narrator never made any effort to find out much about Robert. When they first met, even though Robert couldn't see the narrator, he could probably sense his feeling of uncomfortable ness, so he tried to put the narrator at ease by saying "I feel like we've already met." However, the narrator pointed out how he didn't have anything to say to that. He was obviously reluctant to learn or even understand about Robert and his handicap.

When I was reading this story, I must admit that I gave up hope on the narrator. I didn't think he would ever come to realize that he shouldn't isolate himself from other individuals. However, the connection between Robert and the narrator finally arrives at the end of the story. Robert surprisingly shattered the narrator's perception of blind people and his belief that they don't smoke. The narrator sees that Robert isn't as powerless as he had thought. He sees how active Robert was in having an Amway distributorship, and even having an occupation as a ham radio operator. He did a little of everything. Robert was quite the active guy, building many new friendships and obtaining knowledge about the world through others around him. Also, his notion that "blind don't smoke" was shattered because Robert willingly smoked some dope "right down to the nubbin." As the reader can see, some stereotypes that the narrator had are breaking apart. The walls that he built around himself that were keeping him isolated were falling down as he was learning about Robert. Then the last wall, and surely the thickest finally fell down at the end of the story.

The metamorphasis of the narrator finishes when they start watching TV. While flipping through the channels, the blind man tells the narrator "Whatever you want to watch is okay. I'm always learning something. Learning never ends..." Here again we see how Robert is always open to new ideas and wants to learn. The author's last use of action is used drive the major theme to the climax when the narrator was unsuccessful in an attempt to describe what a cathedral looks like. Robert asks the narrator to draw for him a cathedral, which was being shown on the television. At first the narrator thought the idea was "crazy" and he wasn't into it at all, however, he does decide to try it. Surprisingly, after a while, the narrator becomes fascinated in his drawing. It was as if he was changing into a whole new person, which was what was actually happening. Then Robert tells the narrator to close his eyes and continue drawing. Blindly. This challenge that Robert gave him was the event that would change his life forever. This enabled him to become apart of Roberts world now and he felt something so incredible. "It was like nothing else" in his life before. Even when he was finished he kept his eyes closed. He was able to see and sense the cathedral that he had drawn for Robert but only using his fingers. He was now a new person.

Interaction between humans is a necessity in salvation. Humans don't develop alone in this world. As Aristotle claims, we don't' become human until we have had contact with other individuals. In this short story, we see the narrator change from a close-minded individual to and unbiased one with the willingness to learn and experience from others. It is with stepping inside another's shoes that helps one to learn, and like it did to the narrator, to help break down walls that we create without even knowing.