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Symbolic Significance of Strangers in the Story: “Cathedral”

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In the story “Cathedral”, there is only one stranger: Robert. He is a blind man and a friend to the main character’s wife. He is on his way to the character’s house to pay them a visit. It is in the course of waiting for his arrival that most matters pertaining to his stay are discussed in length. The character does not like the idea of the stranger visiting them, especially because of his blindness. Thus, he depicts a contemptuous attitude towards him. He retorts: “I wasn’t enthusiastic about his visit. He was no one I knew” (Carver 1).

The stranger in the story helps in depiction of the man’s character traits.  The key character showcases the element of disconnection in the sense that he refuses to show compassion to the disabled stranger. It is inhumane of him to compare his challenges as a blind man to the ones he had seen in the films. Furthermore, he refuses to build any form of relation with the blind in the society. This is attributed to the fact that he refers to the stranger as “the blind man’ yet he has a name: Robert. This is a negative depiction of his thoughts towards the less fortunate in the society.  Notably, he does not want to associate his wife with the blind stranger. He talks in disgust whenever he narrates the manner in which his wife and the blind man had met. He says of the meeting: “They’d become good friends, my wife and the blind man” (Carver 1).

However, this inhumane manner of depicting the less fortunate in the society ends when the blind-stranger arrives. Unlike the manner in which he had earlier perceived him negatively, he is lead into a cordial relationship. This is catapulted by the stranger’s manner of handling matters around him. It is only after the blind stranger requesting the main character to help with the drawing of the “cathedral” that results to an eye-opening experience. He finds out that being blind means one can perceive matter in different ways. Thus, the symbolic significance of the stranger is depicted whenever he helps the main character to embrace the conscious way of perceiving events in one’s life.

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