Before reading the following post, please read Cathedral by Raymond Carver
The narrator in Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” can physically see, however he chooses not to use his eyes. Instead the narrator deliberately chooses to see with a biased view. This means of perspective is often referred to as “unreliable narrator.” The narrator exudes qualities of insecurity and jealousy, in which cloud his vision even more. This inability to see things accurately is demonstrated when the narrator and husband is forced to meet and converse with a blind man. The narrator’s perspective of the world around him, narrow, blurred, inaccurate is resolved by Roger, the blind man, who helps the narrator see past his prejudices. The ironic twist is that the physically blind man teaches the narrator, a figuratively blind man, how to see.
The blind man operates as a foil, contrasting the narrator’s limited view with the physical inability to see at all. Although, the narrator resists at first, this starch comparison eventually works and “opens his eyes.” However, the reason the story connects with readers so well, is that it is told from the perspective of the person who was prejudice and has now changed. This inside look at what it feels like to undergo this transformation captivates the reader and thus offers them perspective on themselves.
The first few pages of the story, “Cathedral” reveal the perspective the narrator has on his life. Demonstrating to the reader his vision of the world is a blurred, and inaccurate one. However, the view he has is not limited to his own life, but also includes the life of his wife, and the rest of the world he lives in. The narrator, “Bub”, exudes unhappiness which is embodied in his insecurity. The narrator’s blurred inaccurate perspective is exemplified when he discusses his wife’s ex-husband. He asks, ”Why should he have a name? He was the childhood sweetheart, and what more does he want?” In addition, he be littles her feelings or perhaps dismisses them outright. He is essentially a horse with blinders on due to his vision limited by his self imposed prejudicial scope.
He treats everyone around him, and who interacts with him dismissively and without importance. In addition, I believe this also gives insight into the character. If he treats everyone without importance, then the person he believes is most important is himself. An example of this can be seen when he calls the wife’s ex-husband “the officer” or “the man.” The ex-husband is so unimportant he does not even deserve a name. However, people who are insecure do not believe they are most important, but are defensive and protecting oneself from risk of pain. His vision not only limits how he behaves, but also how he is able to or unable to connect with others.
In addition, the use of “unreliable narrator” has gathered popularity in literature in recent years. Being implemented in “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “The Sixth Sense,” and “Shutter Island” to name a few. Perhaps, most intriguing is convincing the audience to believe what is happening is reality, then changing what they know to be true after they have become convinced.