Characterization in Raymond Carver’s Cathedral

Cathedral, the short story by Raymond Carver has a small number of characters who are nevertheless very interesting. They are have been developed by the author of the short story in an excellent way to the level that it is possible to have a comprehensive view of the traits of each of them. The major characters in the story include the narrator, who tells the story in first person, the wife to the narrator who is also the friend to the blind man whose name is Robert, and the blind man who has already been identified as Robert. Minor characters in the story include the many friends who the blind man claims to have made in places such as the Philippines and his wife, Beulah, who is deceased. Other minor characters include the military man who used to be the husband to the narrator’s wife as well as the preacher who presided over the wedding between Robert and Beulah. There is also the wife to the preacher. These characters, both major and minor exhibit various traits as we shall see in the following detailed analysis.

The Narrator (Husband to the lady who is a friend to Robert)

As it has already been stated, the narrator is the husband to the lady who used to be the wife to a military officer, but divorced him and got married to the narrator. She was once an employee to Robert, the blind man and their friendship remained even after she got married and stopped working for him. The friendship is the reason behind the blind man’s visit.

The narrator comes out as a man who is insecure. This is evident from the way he behaves in the presence of the blind man. He is too conscious of the way the wife treats the blind man, to the level that one can sense that he is scared that his wife may be giving too much attention to the blind man. This is insecurity. He is also observant as shown by the careful manner in which he looks at the events that are taking place around him. This is especially true in the period of the visit by Robert whereby he takes note of all the movements made by both his wife and Robert right from the time the two get out of the car. All the actions of the blind man, Robert are carefully watched and reported. The way Robert eats, the manner of his speech, the way he drinks, the way he smokes and the momentary strokes he gives to his overgrown beard do not escape the narrator’s eyes.

Apart from the above, the narrator is a considerate individual despite his earlier displays of insecurity. This is shown by the way he goes out to try to strike a conversation with the blind man as a way of making him feel at home. The effort he puts in doing this is remarkable in that his wife has kept him out of the discussion for a long time by engaging Robert only; to the extent that the narrator feels like he is not in the room. His considerate nature is also shown by his willingness to allow his wife to invite a male friend to visit them in their family home. In most cultures, it is not taken so well when wives befriend other men leave alone inviting them to their matrimonial home. The narrator is a bit uneasy at first but he gathers the courage and allows his wife to go ahead and invite her blind friend anyway. As it turns out, the narrator is not a bad fellow because he strikes a chord of friendship with Robert.

The narrator also comes out a bigot when he expresses dismay over the mere thought of the blind man having married a lady whose name sounds as if the bearer is a person of color or Negro. Although it is not explicitly displayed, he comes out as an individual with racist tendencies and a very narrow mind. The wife, who is accommodative and open minded is not impressed by this and she makes this clear by asking him whether he is mad.

The Narrator’s wife

She is a portrayed as understanding and friendly. This is shown by her relationship with Robert, who, as a blind person, has a number of challenges to contend with in a world where vision plays a highly significant role. She does not have the skepticism that her husband has concerning blind Robert.

She is also shown as being inconsiderate and unfair to some extent through the way she handles the conversation that takes place when the blind man, Robert, arrives in their home. She excludes her husband from the discussion, making him feel left out and unwanted. It would have been okay if she would have included him as she is the one who knew Robert and therefore had the responsibility of handling the talks between Robert and her husband.


Given the achievements he had had, Robert is hard working. He is said to have worked for a radio station and operated a business with his late wife. This is a serious achievement for a man with impaired vision. He is also portrayed as humble and kind, as shown by the way he responds to the narrator’s questions. He is also friendly, and this is why he is able to have a good friendship with the narrator’s wife. Another trait that comes out his that he is intelligent, an aspect that enables him to master complex concepts even without vision.