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Stereotypes In Raymond Carver's Cathedral Essay

1703 words - 7 pages

Stereotypes are no secret. Everybody develops them in some way or another and uses them in social interactions. These generalizations, both positive and negative, about a characteristic(s) of a group (“Stereotypes) have existed throughout modern and historical societies. The husband in Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” interacts with Robert based off of stereotypes formed from social norms and media portrayals of disabled persons. He treats Robert in a negative manner at first relying on those prejudices, but as he comes to know Robert, he re-develops his stereotypes and interacts with Robert in a more positive way.
Dr. Munyi of Kenyatta University states in “Past and Present Perceptions Towards Disability: A Historical Perspective” that fear, ignorance, and superstition are among many social factors that have led to the development of stereotypes and prejudices towards disabled people. Throughout history people with disabilities have been thought to be possessed by the devil, inferior, witches, helpless, et cetera and have therefore been isolated because of the negative views placed on them. These perceptions are developed beginning at childhood as children are particularly vulnerable to views passed on from parents and social norms of the time (Munyi). The media also has a strong influence on stereotypes. Children and other heavy television viewers soak up the views projected on them by the media without question (Farnall and Smith). Especially because few “normal,” non-disabled, people interact frequently with disabled people, the stereotypes are strongly relied on and rarely change among communities (Munyi). Also, with respect to the blind, many of the stereotypes, especially negative ones, have stemmed from generalizations formed about the handicapped population as a whole (Kemp) and are often formed subconsciously (“Stereotypes”).
In the story the husband says he wasn’t looking forward to the visit from Robert. He had no idea who Robert was, other than a blind man his wife had worked for and befriended many years ago. He had no blind friends and had never interacted with a blind person. Because of this the husband was completely ignorant about blind people and could only rely on his preconceived notions about the blind to interact with Robert. The husband thought all blind people always wore dark glasses and used a cane or guide-dog. He didn’t think blind men smoked because they couldn’t see the smoke. He even says “My idea of blindness came from the movies.” Those movies had portrayed blind people as slow, never laughing, and being guided by guide-dogs implying and enforcing the stereotype that the blind/disabled are helpless, weird, and/or inferior. Kemp says in a paper from 1981, the same year “Cathedral” was published, that there are three main ill-mannered views of the blind: non-acceptance, the blind are helpless and dependant, and the sighted must help the blind. These are all negative and are representative of the way the blind were...

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