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The nature of relationship between Robert, the blind character, and his wife Beulah is brought into sharp focus by the author through narrator after the demise of the latter more than any other thing in the story. Despite incessant assurances from his wife that Robert is not in any way short of a loving and caring husband and was always there for Beulah up to the point of her demise, the narrator still shows pity for Beulah on suspicion of neglect and perennial lack of soul lifting complements by her husband. The aim of this paper, therefore, is to analyze the nature of perceived relationship between Robert and Beulah in the eyes of the narrator and possibly help answer the ever nagging question: “Did Robert and Beulah lead a deplorable life in their marriage before her death or not?
…And then I found myself thinking 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 go on day after day and never receive the smallest compliment from her beloved (Baldick 5). In these words, the narrator mulls over what manner of life Beulah led in the hands of her blind husband, Robert, long before she succumbed to cancer on her deathbed. In every detail, the excerpt discloses the deeper levels of the narrator’s self-delusion about Robert in regard to what kind of husband he is and what actually matters in a healthy relationship. The narrator is convinced beyond reasonable doubt that Robert, taking his visual challenges into consideration, cannot deliver what it takes to be capable husband.
The narrator’s preformed perception of Robert as an incapable personality takes much preeminence in his belief system to the extent he turns a deaf ear to his wife’s defenses of the loving man Robert really is. Regardless of the strong devotion the couple had for one another up to the point of her death, the narrator goes ahead and pronounces Beulah’s life as “pitiful”. All these negativities of the narrator about the character are based on the flimsy criterion that her physical attributes could not be visualized by her beloved husband. In his own limited judgment, the narrator views one’s ability to perceive and, in turn, fathoms other’s physical appearance as the only indicator of a happy marriage and fulfilling relationships.
It is evident from the extract thus that the widely portrayed status of Beulah’s life is just a mere creation of the narrator which does not exist in reality. According to the narrator, Beulah was never appreciated nor complemented on her beautiful appearance by the less fortunate husband. For this reason, the egocentric narrator considers his own being much better and far capable above Robert when it comes to appreciating the beauty of a woman on the virtue that he can see. This kind of an exposed prejudice will help readers acknowledge and rectify the prevailing misconception that there is no difference between understanding and seeing. Blind Robert cannot see but masters the art of understanding and making Beulah a happy and self-actualized wife while the seeing narrator cannot do so. This constitutes the biggest paradox as well as an irony of Cathedral.
The expert plays a very fundamental role in relaying core themes within the story through the use of imagery and irony. In the first instance, the passage lays down a close comparison between Robert and the narrator against the background of prejudices and preformed opinions about the former. Against the expectations of many readers, it turns out that Robert is far much better than the self-delusioned narrator. He understands, appreciates and sticks by the side of his ailing wife, Beulah – a phenomenon that proves that the couple had a wonderfully happy life in marriage otherwise referred to the narrator as pity. On the other hand, the narrator obstinately fails to keep up his ostensible marital bliss, and their marriage is marred with serious contentions and unhappiness irrespective of his inherent potentials.
Considering that the excerpt is drawn for the preliminary chapter of the book, the author uses it to create the desirable background setting upon which the story is set. At the beginning of the story, readers are prompted to develop a temporary notion that the blind are short of men of substance in terms of keeping marriage vibrant and the wife happy. As such, the settings of pity and remorsefulness take pre-eminence before it is cheered up by the revelations of the blind’s hidden potentials in the subsequent chapters. The emotions of the readers increasingly get brighter with the simple discovery that falsely pitied Beulah was indeed the happiest and the most fulfilled woman in the story. As much as many readers would be tempted to think, Beulah might have fast died of cancer due to neglect of her husband; it is one of the soothing realities to notice that the caring Robert was always by her side until she passed on a happy woman.
In conclusion, the extract is very significant in the revelation of narrator’s preformed opinion about the health of relationship between Beulah and his blind husband Robert. The excerpt goes a long way to disclose the deeper levels of the narrator’s self-delusion about Robert in regard to what kind of husband he is and what actually matters in a healthy relationship.