Cathedral Essay, Research Paper


The story, “Cathedral,” is written in first person point of view. The title is a depiction for what happens in the story. A cathedral is a symbol of faith and strength, and an important factor to this story. The story is about the conversion of a man who is depressed about life and who has a nonchalant view to faith. “This is a man who lives a reclusive, isolated life, trapped in the prison of his own skin and his own bigoted and skewered way of looking at the world.” (Wired for Books). It is also about learning how to visualize and feel. The cathedral represents the narrator’s prejudice and the blind man’s open-mindedness. The blind man is quite amazing because his blindness has made his other senses extraordinary, unlike ours. He sees things from a unique position and then he is able to share them with others using a different approach. The process of drawing the cathedral becomes the epiphany for the narrator and the theme of learning to see from a blind man evolves.

The story starts out with the narrator being irritated because his wife has invited a blind friend, whose wife just died, to spend the night. We see from the beginning that the visitor’s blindness bothers the narrator and that he is not looking forward to his visit. His anger and edginess about the blind man’s visit do not seem to be appropriate for the circumstances. You sense that the blind man is somehow a threat to him.

When the narrator sees Robert for the first time, his preconceived notion of what a blind person looks like is put to the test. Robert was nicely dressed; he had a beard, no cane, and no dark sunglasses. That did not fit the narrator’s image of a blind person. At dinner, the narrator saw that Robert was not as helpless as he thought he would be.

After dinner, when the wife leaves the room, the two men began their interaction. The blind man forces the narrator to begin to reevaluate his entire world. As the evening progresses, the narrator still challenges Robert in different ways. He turns on the TV (which the blind man cannot see). Robert tells the narrator that whatever he wants to watch is okay. A documentary about cathedrals is showing. The narrator tries to describe a cathedral to Robert he is cannot get his image across.

The narrator gets a pen and a paper bag to draw on. The blind man sits down next to him. Robert has the narrator close his eyes, and with his hand on top, they draw together so Robert can “see” what a cathedral is like. Because Robert is so open and understanding, he teaches the narrator to imagine and feel what it is like to be a blind man. It is through this revelation that the husband loses his prejudice feelings while drawing the cathedral as Robert guides him, not because he guides Robert. The epiphany happens in the period in-between and the narrator tells us, “It was like nothing else in my life up to now.” At the end, the narrator says, “My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything. It’s really something.” “To me, the story was about appreciation of things that we are blind to and subsequently afraid of.” (Web Bulletin Board).

Web Bulletin Board/Bulletin Board Archive – 103: Introduction to Fiction – Section F2.

Matthew Hurt. Laura Cosner. 8 February 2000. University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois. 28 September 2001.


Wired for Books/Community Reconsidered. David B. Kurz. 11 June 1997. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. 27 September 2001.


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