Identifying a Common Theme Between Housekeeping and Cathedral Essay

Submitted By Mcblane
Words: 1046
Pages: 5

Blane Goulding
Professor Mauro
Common Themes Between Housekeeping and “Cathedral” In Housekeeping and in “Cathedral,” both Sylvie and Robert shroud themselves in darkness away from the world. Sylvie choses to live with the lights off while Robert is simply blind, however both characters still openly prefer to live this way rather than a more well-lit existence. While light typically illuminates and guides, for them it only serves to distract and drown out the more important qualities of their lives that often seem foreign and confusing to the other characters. Through the absence of light, these characters connect with their world in a unique way that deliberately welcomes the darkness as truth. Although in Robert’s case his avoidance of the light is not by choice, both he and Sylvie show no intention of preferring a different lifestyle. Sylvie reveals these intentions more obviously as she has the option to simply turn on a light switch and be rid of the darkness in her house. However, she enjoys the balance between the house and the night that the night time provides: “Sylvie liked to eat supper in the dark…Evening was her special time of day” (Robinson 99). Although he never specifically alludes to it, Robert welcomes his blindness as clarity free from the distraction of sight. This reveals itself through the juxtaposition of the narrator’s interactions with Robert from when he first meets him versus at the end of the story. Before meeting Robert, the narrator hears about his wife and assumes that she must have been miserable with a blind man for a husband: “Hearing this I felt sorry for the blind man for a little bit. And then I found myself thinking what a pitiful life this woman must have lead” (Carver 213). Taking pity on Robert, the narrator already applies a negative connotation to his blindness. However by the end of the story, Robert welcomes the narrator into his world by asking him to “close [his] eyes…keep that way…and draw” (Carver 228). The narrator’s only response to this “it’s really something” (Carver 228) shows that the narrator no long pities Robert but rather shows envy of this unique world absent of light by not even opening his eyes at the conclusion of the drawing: “My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything” (Carver 228). While light usually connotes good and truth, to Sylvie and Robert it only highlights frivolous things. In both stories this happens literally and figuratively. Sylvie prefers a house that does not contrast with nature. Rather she prefers an “equilibrium” with the atmosphere outside to inside: “She seemed to dislike the disequilibrium of counterpoising a roomful of light against a world of darkness” (Robinson 99). Sylvie literally prefers to remain in the darkness. This world makes sense to her and yet frightens and confuses outsiders who attempt to shine an unwanted light on her only to reveal confusing scenes like dusty china and “tin cans… filled with peach pits and keys from sardine and coffee cans” (Robinson 125). Robert also enjoys a life which does not depend on the distraction of physical appearances. The narrator assumes that he and his wife must have been miserable simply due to the fact that Robert could not see her: “Imagine a woman who could never see herself as she was seen in the eyes of her loved one” (Carver 215). Again an outsider confuses the life of darkness for something terrible while the opposite proves true as the wife had only described the relationship between Robert and Beulah positively saying how they were “inseparable” (Carver 214). Both Sylvie and Robert avoid light on a figurative level though their indifference towards religion. Religion always strongly associates itself positively with light and yet Robert plainly states that “Cathedrals don’t mean anything special to me” (Carver 226). Sylvie treats religion in a similar manner by handling it only as a means to an end