We haven’t featured any of Raymond Carver’s short stories on the Dish yet – a major oversight, given the writer’s reputation and influence. “Cathedral” generally is considered one of his finer works, and here’s what Carver said about it in an interview:
The story “Cathedral” seemed to me completely different from everything I’d written before. I was in a period of generosity. The character there is full of prejudices against blind people. He changes; he grows. The sighted man changes. He puts himself in the blind man’s place. The story affirms something.
The story begins this way:
This blind man, an old friend of my wife’s, he was on his way to spend the night. His wife had died. So he was visiting the dead wife’s relatives in Connecticut. He called my wife from his in-laws’. Arrangements were made. He would come by train, a five-hour trip, and my wife would meet him at the station. She hadn’t seen him since she worked for him one summer in Seattle ten years ago. But she and the blind man had kept in touch. They made tapes and mailed them back and forth. I wasn’t enthusiastic about his visit. He was no one I knew. And his being blind bothered me. 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.
That summer in Seattle she had needed a job.
She didn’t have any money. The man she was going to marry at the end of the summer was in officers’ training school. He didn’t have any money, either. But she was in love with the guy, and he was in love with her, etc. She’d seen something in the paper: HELP WANTED – Reading to Blind Man, and a telephone number. She phoned and went over, was hired on the spot. She’d worked with this blind man all summer. She read stuff to him, case studies, reports, that sort of thing. She helped him organize his little office in the county social-service department. They’d become good friends, my wife and the blind man. How do I know these things? She told me. 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 told me he touched his fingers to every part of her face, her nose – even her neck! She never forgot it. She even tried to write a poem about it. She was always trying to write a poem. She wrote a poem or two every year, usually after something really important had happened to her.