Describing Someone: "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver

Last week, we studied the process of writing a descriptive paragraph. One of the passages we read - as an example of how to develop a personal description - was extracted fron Raymond Carver's Cathedral:

I've never met, or personally known, anyone who was blind. This blind man was late forties, a heavy-set, balding man with stooped shoulders, as if he carried a great weight there. He wore brown slacks, brown shoes, a light-brown shirt, a tie, a sports coat. Spiffy. He also had this full beard. But he didn't use a cane and he didn't wear dark glasses. I'd always thought dark glasses were a must for the blind. Fact was, I wished he had a pair. At first glance, his eyes looked like anyone else's eyes. But if you looked close, there was something different about them. Too much white in the iris, for one thing, and the pupils seemed to move around in the sockets without his knowing it or being able to stop it. Creepy. As I stared at his face, I saw the left pupil turn in toward his nose while the other made an effort to keep in one place. But it was only an effort, for that eye was on the roam without his knowing it or wanting it to be.

I commented on the idea that the first sentence can be considered a sort of "topic sentence" that prefigures what is going to be said next. From the subjective point of view of the narrator, the blind man embodies a first contact with "the unknown". This character is described as a weird creepy person who neither uses a cane nor wears dark glasses, as one would expect from a blind man. The narrator's tone reveals certain uncertainty (and a very subtle sense of humour). There's tension and suspense. After all, this is the first time he meets this person, as well as the first time he meets someone who is blind. Moreover, the circumstances under which they meet are a bit strange, and the main character's feelings are projected onto the blind guy. What I find interesting here is the fact that Carver manages to fix the reader's attention on exactly the detail (e.g: the eyes), the opinion (e.g: at first, this guy looks creepy), and emotion (e.g: uncertainty, suspense) that he wants to emphasize by manipulating the point of view. In this sense, the first sentence of this paragraph works perfectly well, since it creates a point of view: the narrator does not really know that person and, therefore, what we are going to read might be beyond what is normal and expected.

If you feel like reading Raymond Carver's short story, CLICK HERE and enjoy!!

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