In the beginning of the story the narrator talks about Robert—the blind man who was a long time friend of the narrator’s wife. For the past ten years they remained really close friends. They sent each other recorded tapes back and forth as a means of communication. The narrator wasn’t too eager about Roberts visit, and was bothered about the fact that he was blind. Additionally, the friendship that his wife and Robert carried for the past ten years bothered the narrator; he saw it as if he wasn’t as important as the blind man is to his wife. Perhaps he placed him in that category because he felt threatened and insecure by the relationship the blind man and his wife shared. He made comments as if all blind people should use a cane and wear dark glasses; nonetheless, this wasn’t the case with Robert. When the narrator sees Robert smoke a cigarette it astonishes him, the narrator thinks: “I remember to having read somewhere that the blind didn’t smoke because they couldn’t see the smoke they exhaled… But this blind...
"Cathedral" is extremely light on symbols, imagery, and allegory. So, don't worry if you're having some trouble coming up with anything. In a postmodern work, the surface is often the most important thing. In this case, everything is right in front of us, if we can adjust our vision to see it. For example, the woman's pink robe and slippers are things that help her feel comfortable. If we think about them, they have value and meaning in their own right. They aren't part of an intricate scheme of symbols that we have to unlock before we can understand the story.
First published in 1981, "Cathedral" is set in the days when the switch from black and white to color television was in its early stages, and when cassette tapes were a cutting edge technology. The basic setting of the story is a middle-class home somewhere in New York, over a single evening.
In a story called "Cathedral" one might expect setting to be a little more complicated than that. It is, but not by much. After lots of drinks, a huge meal, and some marijuana, an ordinary living room is transformed into what could be considered a scared place, kind of like a cathedral, but one where the people in it are worshiping only each other. When Robert and the narrator draw the cathedral together in front of the narrator's sleeping wife, something amazing is happening, something that isn't necessarily visible to the eye. When the woman wakes up, she can't quite process what she sees. Robert has his hand over her husband's hand, and the two of them sitting on the floor drawing on a paper grocery bag.
Soon after she opens her eyes, the narrator closes his, but continues drawing, with Robert's hand tight around his. To the implied reader the narrator exclaims, "It was like nothing else in my life up to now" (3.45). Perhaps the experience is so amazing because the narrator is able to find a way to communicate with Robert not only without words, but in a way he never imagined before. He's amazed by the