The most important character in the short story “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver is the first-person narrator. However, we will also focus on the character of Robert (the blind man), as he is an important part of the plot.
The narrator is the main character in the short story. His characterization is conveyed indirectly, through his thoughts and attitude. He is a developing character, as his perspective on Robert and blindness changes at the end of the short story.
From his outer characterization, we find out that he is married and has been doing the same job for three years, although he doesn't enjoy it. However, the man’s inner characterization is more important in the story.
In the course of the narrative, the narrator comes across as a man ruled by prejudices. He has prejudices against blind people and African-Americans: “My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed. Sometimes they were led by seeing-eye dogs. A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to.”; “ ‘Was his wife a Negro?’ I asked. ‘Are you crazy?’ my wife said.”
However, the story mostly explores the narrator’s prejudices towards a particular blind man, his wife’s friend, Robert. The fact that the narrator constantly calls Robert ‘the blind man’ (65 times) suggests the narrator is fixated on the man’s disability and uses it to minimize Robert’s other traits.
The narrator does not only dislike Robert because he is blind; he is also frustrated about Robert’s friendship with his wife, from which he feels excluded. This is suggested through the way he describes his wife’s relationship and correspondence with Robert, and the man’s visit: “He sent her the tape. She made a tape. This went on for years. My wife’s officer was posted to one base and then another. She sent tapes from Moody AFB, McGuire, McConnell, and finally Travis, near Sacramento...”; “They talked of things that had happened to them—to them!—these past ten years. I waited in vain to hear my name on my wife’s sweet lips: ‘And then my dear husband came into my life’...”
The narrator’s wife mentions that he has no friends which suggests the narrator might have a difficult character which makes it hard for him to make friends. As the narrator seems to be constantly drinking and he smokes cannabis regularly, we are inclined to assume he might have some addiction problems: “I said, ‘Let me get you a drink. What’s your pleasure? We have a little bit of everything. It’s one of our pastimes.’ ”, “Every night I smoked dope and stayed up as long as I could before I fell asleep.”
The narrator’s relationship with his wife comes across as occasionally conflicting, mostly because of the wife’s friendship with Robert and Robert’s visit, but also because the narrator does not seem to understand her. He does not understand his wife’s poems or the feelings she experienced when Robert touched her (10 years earlier):
She told me he touched h...