Blindness can manifest itself in many ways. Arguably the most detrimental form of this condition may be the figurative blindness of one’s own situations and ignorance towards the feelings of others. In Raymond Carver's short story "Cathedral," the narrator's emotional and psychological blindness is immediately apparent. Not only is the unnamed narrator in this story ignorant of the need for understanding, he also doesn’t appear happy and doesn’t seem overly interested in making changes either. A blind man, a friend of his wife’s whom he has never met, is coming to stay the night. The blind man’s wife just passed away and the narrators’ wife figures he could use some company. He, the narrator, clearly views the blind man as lower than himself. This is evidenced in the first line of the story: “This blind man, an old friend of my wife’s, he was on his way to spend the night.” (Carver, 209). The blind man is not given a name, he is given an attribute. Substitute “black man” or “Jewish man” or “gay man”, and the point remains the same. The man was just an unnamed blind man. He is referred to as “the blind man” until right before he makes a “physical” appearance in the story, about four pages in. We find out then that his name is Robert and, from that point forward he’s referred to as such.
However even after he’s been given the dignity of a name, our narrator is still ironically blinded by stereotypes (likely from television, since our narrator spends a good deal of time watching television). Robert has a beard, Robert smokes, Robert does not carry a cane, Robert does not wear sunglasses. These are characteristics that our narrator did not suspect, and they begin to break down the generalizations he has grown accustomed to believing. Without really making note of it, the narrator is starting to understand the differences while also discovering the ways that he is similar to Robert.
The narrator’s wife, whom invited Robert in the first place, spends most of the story asleep, forcing the two men to interact. As the night goes on and they spend more and more time together, the walls of difference are broken down, and similarities begin to surface. Although Robert is obviously still blind, the narrator begins to see him as an equal; as more than a handicap. This is brought even more to light as the story concludes and our narrator closes his eyes, becoming blind, in order to show Robert what a cathedral