Characterization & Character Arc
By Raymond Carver
In Raymond Carver’s, “Cathedral,” the reader is introduced to a very superficial and self
involved narrator. The story is situated one evening in the narrator’s home which he shares with
his wife. She has a dear friend named Robert, who is blind, and comes to visit shortly after his
own wife passes away. The protagonist of the story, who remains nameless, is characterized as
an impersonal and elusive individual, yet he is ultimately faced with a situation where he is
forced to muster some empathy. As the story progresses, the juxtaposition of the protagonist’s
dispassionate personality, with that of Robert’s passionate personality, allows the reader to
witness a very personal growth that occurs within the protagonist. It takes a blind man to show
the main character how to see things from a perspective outside of his own.
The reader is confronted with a protagonist who is unable to empathize or relate to others,
even his own loved ones. For instance, although he is aware of the special relationship between
his wife and Robert, he is openly skeptical about the visit. For example, almost immediately he
says, “I wasn’t enthusiastic about his visit. He was no one I knew. And his being blind bothered
me” (34). Some of the first words out of the main character’s mouth are selfish and negative. He
doesn’t want Robert to visit because he doesn’t know him, and it doesn’t matter that he is a good
friend of his wife. H...
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