A Day of Disability: Raymond Carver’s Cathedral

In Raymond Carver’s Cathedral, a fear reinforced by stereotypes and the unknown prompts the husband of the blind man’s ex-caretaker to be bothered by the blind man’s arrival. Due to his lack of interaction with blind individuals, the husband’s perception and fear of the blind was unjustified. He was bothered by the blind because in movies, “the blind moved slowly and never laughed” (Carver 1). These preconceived judgments only lessened his enthusiasm towards meeting his wife’s friend, demonstrating how the unfair portrayal of the blind in movies can procure false images of people with physical impairments in viewers’ minds. If the wife had not forced her husband to meet her blind friend, Robert, her husband would continue to remain fearful of the blind due to his ignorance. The author, Raymond Carver, creates this story and highlights Robert’s strengths in order to confront the prejudices against the blind and demonstrate that those with this disability are misunderstood.

The husband’s lack of interaction with the blind causes him to be surprised upon Robert’s arrival.  Since the husband had never met a blind person, he was surprised to find Robert without dark glasses. According to the husband, he “had always thought glasses were a must for the blind” (5) due to its prominence in the media. Furthermore, the husband continues to be shocked by Robert when he sees him smoking a cigarette and finding his food on his plate. The husband had read that the blind did not smoke because they “couldn’t see the smoke they exhaled” (6), but clearly this was not the case. Robert smoked like any other man, despite his disability. Throughout the narrative, Robert’s preconceived views of the blind are continuously challenged by Robert’s actions. Robert is blind, but that does not stop him from drinking, smoking, falling in love, and participating in activities that other individuals engage in on a daily basis. The author creates Robert in order to challenge the flawed views some individuals have of the blind and to reassure readers that those who are blind function and go through life like everyone else.

In the narrative, the Robert is not feminized nor infantilized. The author strategically creates Robert this way so that Robert does not seem inferior to the other characters in the narrative. Despite the fact that Robert is blind and cannot read, see food in front of him, or watch TV, the author does not focus on the obstacles he faces. Instead, the author highlights the actions Robert is capable of and his ability to learn despite these setbacks. Robert may be unable to see the cathedral that his ex-caretaker’s husband describes, but this serves an impetus for him to learn about it and try to imagine what it looks like. By holding the husband’s hand while he draws a cathedral, he is able to almost visualize a cathedral through these motions. If the author had constructed a blind character that let his disability negatively affect him, the husband’s imperfect views of the blind would have been confirmed, Robert would have been portrayed like one of the blind people in the movies, and he would have been pitied by the characters in the narrative. However, by creating a character that is willing to learn despite his disability, it serves as a way to demonstrate that the blind will do anything to view the world as much as others do. Robert may not be able to physically see a cathedral, but it does not mean he can’t understand what it looks like. Robert’s character ultimately demonstrates that the prejudices that the blind are subject to in the media are not accurate representations of the blind. By confronting these stereotypes, Robert is able to show individuals that blind people are just like those around them and that they use their body to their full potential, even if they do not have full capacity of their vision.


Carver, Raymond. Cathedral. 1981, http://www.giuliotortello.it/ebook/cathedral.pdf. Accessed 13 Apr 2018.