Please read Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral.” How does Robert shatter the narrator’s preconceived notions of blind people?

Please read Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral.”

How does Robert shatter the narrator’s preconceived notions of blind people? How do his appearance and bearing resist every stereotypical image the narrator has about blind people, and why is this so upsetting? Talk about a time that your stereotype of someone was incorrect and you realized it. Did you find it upsetting to lose your stereotype? Why or why not?

I will share my experience. I was in New Zealand, sitting on the train that goes from Christchurch to Blenheim. A woman a bit younger than me sat down cattycornered from me at a table, facing me, with a scone and cup of tea. Glancing at her snack, I thought, “Oh, she’s British,” and went back to my book.

A bit later, as the train went along the eastern coast of the island, the conductor announced that the brown seal colony was just below us. The woman slid across to look out the window, then blurted out, “I can’t see them!” Having seen them many times, I hadn’t been paying attention, but now I looked, spotted them, and pointed–“Right there, see the movement? They’re the same color as the wet sand and rocks, so they’re hard to see.”

“Ah, there they are. Seals! Thank you!”

And so we began to talk. It was one of the best, most real conversations I’ve ever had. She was a young Sikh woman (did you think she was white when I thought “Oh, she’s British?”). I had preconceptions about the Sikhs, picturing them all as very traditional and abiding by their culture–and not really knowing much about the women, only the men because they’re more visible in their turbans and beards.

My new friend was, indeed, a bit younger than me, and she was a practicing attorney outside London. Our conversation went from the professional to the personal very quickly when I asked her if she was traveling alone, as it seemed she was.

“My friends are in Australia. I wanted to see New Zealand, but nobody else wanted to make the trip. I came by myself.” She paused. “I’m glad to have some time alone. I need to sort myself out.”


“I feel it’s time for me to settle down, and I want to go home and talk to my parents, clearly, about my choice.”

Ah, I thought, there it is. She’s going to do something radical and separate herself completely from her culture–after all, she was young, beautiful, very modern in every way, an educated professional woman, and she was going to become completely secular now that she was raised in the West.

But I said, “What will you tell them?”

She looked at me closely, then glanced at my hands. “You’re married. I see your wedding band.”

“I am.”

“Well, I have never been.” She looked at me again, holding my gaze. “I have dated and been involved with men from every race and background. English, Irish, Caribbean, a Pakistani attorney who shared my experiences and outlook at the time. But I have made up my mind. I want to marry a Sikh.”

We talked for a long time, the rest of the train ride, very deeply about how any woman makes a conscious choice about the kind of man they want to marry. She blew my stereotypes out of the water about traditional cultural values and the kinds of decisions that families and men and women make in that type of world.

When the train pulled into Blenheim, we bid each other goodbye with tears in our eyes. It was as if we’d found a long-lost sister, someone we could talk to without fear, without prejudice, and only with absolute honesty.

I never learned her name, but I hold onto her memory and the deep, open-hearted talk that we had. It was one of the most revealing experiences of my life, and it changed how I perceive entire groups of people and the way that they choose to live.

Now, tell us about a time you know about when a stereotype was challenged and changed or opened or destroyed. Did you find it upsetting to lose your stereotype? Why or why not?