REVIEWS: Cathedral by Raymond Carver

Basically a story of human nature in resentment and jealousy, feelings of being an outsider, and how they are overcome and changed by face to face confrontation.

In this first person pov, a man gives us a setup of what is going on, in a very neutral reporting-style voice for the first half of the first paragraph.  The choice of words is as important as the voice and narrative structure which is made up of short, to the point statements:

This blind man, an old friend of my wife’s, he was on his way to spend the night.  His wife had died.  So he was visiting the dead wife’s relatives in Connecticut.  He called my wife from his in-law’s.  Arrangements were made.

The narrator seems almost as if he is holding back on details for fear of revealing his feelings.  There is much told by the reference to the man as "This blind man" rather Robert so and so, or even structuring the opening as "An old friend of my wife’s, a blind man…" which would in fact be less telling of his feelings than what he says.  His wording is one of clipped and obvious holding back.  His feelings do come out in the second half of this paragraph quite clearly:

I wasn’t enthusiastic about his visit.  He was no one I knew.  And his being blind bothered me.  (…)A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to.

Even his admission of his feelings is succinct, and yet speaks volumes.  He "wasn’t enthusiastic" is how he starts it off, but the fact immediately come through that the reason is that the man is "no one (he) knew." This indicates a separation between his wife and himself in that the man is from her life, not his.  This is what he ranks first as his objection to the visit.  His next statement may seem flagrantly biased against the handicapped–which he has a right to be if he so wishes–yet there’s no sense of gentility about his language.  There almost appears to be an unconscious dig: "not something I looked forward to."

This will become more and more obvious as the story goes on, but the narrator refers to Robert as "the" or "this blind man", and his wife is always referred to in that way–as if to establish ownership.  There is a point he makes later on about names–and I’ll get to that.

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