As with many short stories, Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” only has a few pages to develop his main character and create a scenario he or she must learn from or achieve something from or change because of. In such a short amount of space, word choice is integral in constructing a solid impression of the characters and their personalities in the reader’s mind. Carver’s simple use of language and sentence structure combined with his choice for point of view creates an intriguing tone and believable character interaction.
This story, written as the thoughts of the narrator, is about an old blind friend of his wife’s coming to visit for the first time. The story focuses on the narrator’s cynicism toward the blind man and the way his wife seems to look up to him. Through out the visit there is halting interaction between the blind man and the narrator, however in the end the narrator experiences something he never could have imagined. Through the eyes of a blind man, he gains a better understanding of who he could be.
The most striking aspect of Carver’s “Cathedral” is the fact that the story is written from the point of view of a man not initially involved in the set up of the story at all. The narrator relays to the reader stories he has learned from his wife about her past before relaying what is happening in the present. He tells her history as if he were speaking to himself in an interior monologue. Her story is periodically interrupted with his own thoughts of what happened and he omits items that seem to bother him. “I’m saying that at the end of the summer she let the blind man run his hands over her face, said goodbye to him married her childhood etc., who was now a commissioned officer…”(218). Every time this officer that is his wife’s first husband comes up in the story, the narrator moves on to other subjects quickly. This reveals a jealousy in him that is not plainly written in the story. It allows the reader to learn about the narrator as he sets up the story. Because of this set up, the reader is able to expect and easily see the narrator’s jealousy as he is later introduced to the blind man. He also omits names. The reader never learns the names of the narrator or his wife, though she is frequently involved in the story. This allows the reader to focus on essential characteristics of the character. The wife is merely the wife. The blind man is blind.
Choice of point of view can change the tone and entire meaning gained from a story. The tone of this story would have been much different if it were written from the wife’s point of view. She would not have been...