Moments of epiphany are rarely planned and even less expected but we
always seemed to know when they arrive. The narrator in Raymond Carver's
short story, "Cathedral," experiences such a life-changing epiphany late
one night in his living room with the aid of a blind man. He learns there
is much more to life than he once thought and there are many different ways
to perceive it. Through the setting, characterization, and symbolism in
the story, Carver emphasizes the significance of the narrator's epiphany.
The characters and their relationships allow us to understand the
narrator's true character. At the beginning of the story, the narrator is
uneasy about Robert's staying in his home. He bluntly tells us that he
"wasn't enthusiastic about his visit" (Carver 209) and, in addition to
that, he admits that Robert's blindness bothers him. We also learn that
the narrator's understanding of the blind is somewhat limited. For
example, he says that his notions of blindness "came from the movies" (209)
and he assumed that blind people "moved slowly and never laughed" (209).
When he sees Robert, he is surprised that he has a beard and that he did
not use a walking cane and did not wear dark glasses. He is also
When I did go to sleep, I had these dreams. His wife writes poetry and even wrote Robert a poem, which thenarrator admits he "didn't think much of" (210). My wife and I hardly ever went to bed together at the sametime. Without the obstacles, he would have never experienced his epiphany. The symbolism in "Cathedral" is also significant because it helps usrealize the magnitude of the narrator's experience. The narratorallows Robert to understand cathedrals and Robert allows the narrator tounderstand blindness. In addition, as the nightand the conversation go on, the narrator learns that Robert is a "regularblind jack-of-all-trades" (218). Also, when his wife goes upstairs to change clothes, thenarrator is uncomfortable because he did not want to be "left alone with ablind man" (219). When the narrator becomesbored with the conversation and turns on the television, we are told thatshe becomes irritated and "headed toward a boil" (218). He becomes aware that a world exists outside ofhis living room through the act of drawing. This can be seen in the narrator's lack of concern aboutRobert's visit. To conclude, Carver utilizes the setting, characters, and symbolism inthe story to stress the narrator's epiphany. In the end, the narrator overcomes the barrierspresented by both obstacles and becomes more aware as an individual. Even when thenarrator's wife wakes up while the two are drawing, the narrator does notanswer her questions about what they are doing, Robert does. We can assumethat the narrator realizes the significance of this change when he tellsus, "Every night I smoked dope and stayed up as long as I could before Ifell asleep.