REVIEWS: Cathedral – Transitioning & Props

Been wondering why the title of the story is Cathedral?  Well we’re about to find out.

With Robert and the narrator mellowed by food, drink, and pot and  "listening" to the TV, we are given the setting up of the basis of change in character.  Might I say at this point that I’m not as happy with the titling since when the cathedral shows up on page nine, it seems almost contrived to suit the purpose, wherein it truly is not as whatever was on TV might have inspired the narrator’s desire to share and his curiosity of how the blind man imagines things. This is a transitioning point; the narrator is willing to ask Robert about his blindness, to explore the nature of it.  He is also moved by what he is seeing and wants to tell Robert about it.  The prop is the image of the cathedrals.

There are several points of interest here.  As the narrator attempts to explain a Spanish festival, we get from Robert in reply:

"Skeletons," he said.  "I know about skeletons," he said, and he nodded."

I would take this to mean that through his fingers–and this goes back to the narrator’s recollection of his wife’s telling him about Robert touching her face–Robert learns how people "look."  There is that reference to structure as a means of imaging that will tie in with the architecture of the cathedrals.   Carver has also set this statement aside in a separate paragraph; which is the normal way to display the dialogue, and yet, leaving it unanswered seems to be a writer’s technique to keep it meaningful.

We learn that the blind man’s mental image depends upon how something is described to him.  When he answers the narrator’s question of "Do you have any idea what a cathedral is? What they look like, that is?"
(which is likely a question that the alcohol and pot has loosened him into allowing him to ask), Robert gives back just what he has heard on the TV.   What this brings to my mind is the recent exercise in class of describing the hallway and the writer’s attempts to produce and the difficulty in producing imagery not by measurement alone.

I stared hard at the shot of the cathedral on the TV.  How could I even begin to describe it?  But say my life depended on it.  Say my life was being threatened by an insane guy who said I had to do it or else.

Not life, but assessment of learning; not guy, but Professor of English.  We’ll leave the insane there for now…

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