Identification with the Other: An Analysis of Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral”
Raymond Carver’s short story entitled “Cathedral” presents the conversation between a man, his wife, and their blind guest. This conversation between the three characters revolves around the necessity to identify one’s self with another human being. The process of identification here refers to an individual’s development of an understanding of the ‘other’ as he exists in a position that occupies a different perspective from one’s self. This is specifically evident within the text as the main character and the blind man learned to identify with one another as they drew the cathedral which was being described in the television show that they were watching.
It is interesting to note the process of identification within the text. Consider for example that the narrator was very anxious as he initially described the blind man who happened to be his wife’s friend as well as her former employer. He states,
She’d worked with this blind man all summer. She read stuff to him…She helped him organize his little office in the county social service department. They’d become good friends, my wife and the blind man….And she told me something else. On her last day in the office, the blind man asked if he could touch her face. She agreed to this…She never forgot it. (Carver, 1983, p.210)
The narrator’s description of the blind man as well as his description of the man’s relationship with his wife seems to be tinged with jealousy. The later part of the text however shows a complete shift on the narrator’s perspective as he was able to empathize and identity with the blind man after they drew the cathedral.
One may thereby state that the significance of the cathedral in Carver’s text is apparent as it serves to represent how one’s experiences with other individuals may be changed as a result of one’s spiritual realization of the connections between individuals. Within the text, the realization of this connection was evident in the later part of the text as the narrator chose to perceive the cathedral while his eyes were closed. This choice shows how the narrator was able to identify himself with the blind man.
Carver, Raymond. (1983). Cathedral. Cathedral. New York: Alfred Knopf.