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How Much Can We See with Our Eyes Closed?

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Michael Amorelli

Noreen Jane Bider

Epiphany and The Short Story

November 26, 2018

How Much Can We See with Our Eyes Closed?

Faith means to believe in things unseen, but how faithful can a blind man be? Furthermore, how faithful can someone who has the unfortunate gift of sight be? In Raymond Craver’s short story titled “Cathedral”, the narrator struggles to find his faith until the moment he realizes how much more he can see once his eyes are closed. The epiphany of this story is centrally concerned with the gift of faith due to the ambiguity of what the narrator lacks belief in, the metaphor of drawing a cathedral, and the opening and closing of the narrator’s eyes during his epiphany.

In order to have faith, you must believe, but what happens when the narrator lacks that belief? Is it not a cry for help; an ever aching need for faith in a positive outcome? The narrator is portrayed as an inarticulate man throughout the story. He lacks the ability to convey his ideas properly which leaves some ambiguity for the reader to interpret how they may. When asked by Robert if he was “in any way religious” (Carver 114), the narrator responds with “I guess I don’t believe in it. In anything”. (Carver 114). Many people would interpret this as the narrator not believing in religion, but if we take a closer look at the writing, we can see that Carver uses the pronouns “it” and “anything” without any antecedents since “religious” is an adjective. Most readers blindly accept that what they think is what the narrator actually says, and they are wrong for doing so. Since the “it” and “anything” are never defined, it leaves room for people to believe that he is referring to faith. To support this claim, the narrator once again ambiguously states “It’s really something” (Carver 115) during his epiphany. Once again, the “it” and “something” are not defined, but in the context of the story, we can assume that the narrator has found his faith. His inability to find the words for what he sees suggests that he now believes in things unseen; the definition of faith. When you have been lacking faith for so long, reality becomes a nightmare, and to escape it, we must find it within ourselves to rebuild and regain what we have lost.

A cathedral is a place of worship where one can find solace and where one can find the faith that they lack. What is faith without a place to believe? What is a cathedral without its structure? The cathedral that the narrator draws with Robert represents true sight. Together they are building their own place for the faithful which grants them the ability to see beyond the surface to see the true meaning that lies beneath. Before the narrator draws the cathedral, his world is simple. Robert cannot see, and he can, but when he tries to describe the cathedral that appears on the television, he asks himself “how could I even begin to describe it?” (Carver 113). He realizes that he does not have the words to do so and he cannot describe what he sees because he really doesn’t understand it. As a result, he decides that the reason he can’t find the words to describe it is because the cathedral has no meaning to him. Only once he draws the cathedral with his eyes closed can he truly understand the difference between understanding and seeing. When he takes the time to draw the cathedral and really “see” it in his mind, he finds himself getting really into it. He adds details, people, everything he could think of to complete the picture, and he even does some of it with his eyes closed. When the narrator is finished drawing, he says he “didn’t feel like he was inside anything” (Carver 115) and is struck with a feeling of weightlessness which suggests he has reached an epiphany. Just as a cathedral offers a place to regain someone’s faith, the narrator’s drawing of a cathedral has allowed him to build the door to another world where he can see beyond what is visible to the human eye. Our eyes can deceive us in many ways, making us believe that reality is only what we can witness, but we must close our eyes in order to truly see.

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