The Cathedral Platos Myth of the Cave and Carvers Cathedral provide insight into parallel words. The protagonists in each story are trapped in a world of ignorance because each is comfortable in the dark, and fearful of what knowledge a light might bring. They are reluctant to venture into unfamiliar territory. Fortunately the narrator in the Cathedral is forced by circumstances to take a risk. This risk leads him into new world of insight and understanding.
The narrator in The Cathedral begins the story with the issue of hesitation in seeing the light. The light in this story just like the light in Platos Myth of the Cave represents reality. The narrator expresses the fear of expressing reality when he said I wasnt 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 look forward to. (Page 98). The narrator felt that being blind was like being in a type of prison and the preconceived notion of self-imprisonment was frightening to him.
He felt that blindness was exactly like being a prisoner in Platos Cave, a scary world where no light ever penetrated. Unfortunately, the husband is imprisoned in his own ignorance. His view of blindness had come from Hollywoods portrayal of blind people. As far as he is concerned, his situation is completely normal. He knows there are lots of people just like him. In The Cathedral the extent of the husbands ignorance or naivet is extremely irritating. When his wife tells him the beautiful story of the blind mans romantic relationship with his wife Beulah, all he could think of is What a pitiful life this woman must have led. Imagine a woman who could never see herself as she was seen in the eyes of her loved one.
A woman who could on day after day and never see the smallest compliment from her beloved. A woman whose husband could never read the expression on her face, be it misery or something better. (Page 100). But the blind man had sight in the form of intuitiveness. This sight gave him greater vision than the sighted man. The blind man had a sense of and source of reality in the truth and strength of the relationship.
This man was unlike the prisoners in the cave. The humans in the cave had no such reality. No love warmth or human contact. The prisoners in the cave had no knowledge of those things. The fire and the shadow provided the only reality for them.
This was their source of knowledge and their source of contact with the world. For these people their cave life and their ignorance created a world worse than the blind mans. Unknown to the prisoners in the cave an elevated causeway crosses through the cave. The prisoners do not know where this road will lead them. In Carvers Cathedral, the narrator did not realize that the blind man was in his causeway out of ignorance.
He did not realize that the simple act of his wife inviting the blind guest would lead to major new discoveries about himself and his ignorance. The narrators wife has been exposed to knowledge, which is what Robert represents in this story, for many years. She was more aware of the world because of her relationship with Robert. This exposure was instrumental in presenting her husband with a learning opportunity. Her husband was given the opportunity to see the light. This was territory into which he would have never ventured on his own.
His fears from his own cave prevented such risky behavior. This was opportunity for him to learn, grow, and develop in a myriad of ways. He would gain in his relationship with his wife. He would gain new insights about himself, and most of all he would gain knowledge that would pull him out of his own cave. The narrator saw the blind man drink and smoke cigarette down to the nubbin.
He saw the blind man enjoy dope and whiskey. These glimpses of reality opened his life as he made discoveries that risk enhanced his life-risk did not detract from it. The prisoners in Platos Cave do not realize that reality is as near as the causeway out of the cave. They do not know that they must take risk to gain knowledge. They are comfortable in the mistaken belief of what reality is because the fire is their only source of knowledge about the world.
In Carvers Cathedral, the narrator is enlightened by Roberts capabilities We sat down at the table for dinner. We dug in. We ate everything there was to eat on the table. We ate like there was no tomorrow. We didnt talk.
We ate. We scarfed. We grazed that table. We were into serious eating. The blind man had right away located his foods; he knew just where everything was on his plate.
I watched with admiration as he used his knife and fork on the meat. Hed cut two pieces of meat, fork the meat into his mouth, and then go all out for the scalloped potatoes, the beans next, and then hed tear off a hunk of buttered bread and eat that. Hed follow this up with a big drink of milk. It didnt seem to bother him to use his fingers once in a while, either. (Page 102). Curiously, the final insight for the husband comes when he closes his eyes in order to imagine and draw the cathedral.
Close your eyes now, the blind man said to me. I did it. I closed them just like he said. Are they closed? He said. Dont fudge. They are closed, I said.
Keep them that way, he said. He said, dont stop now. Draw. So we kept on with it. His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was nothing else in my life up to now.
Then he said, I think thats it. I think you got it, he said. Take a look. What do you think? But I had my eyes closed. I thought I would keep them that way for a little longer. I thought it was something I ought to do. Well, he said.
Are you looking? My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But, I didnt feel like I was inside anything. Its really something I said.
(Page 108). By becoming blind he sees clearly how the blind mans world really is. Being temporarily blind opens his eyes to the world around him. He can understand the handicap, with understanding comes compassion, and the compassion has caused him to develop new insight into the world around him. Interaction with the blind man has allowed him to see, and has removed him from his own personal cave.