Foil Characters In Raymond Carver’s ‘The Cathedral’

Throughout life you will experience situations where it will cause you to have an uneasy and anxious feeling in your stomach. This feeling is caused when you are faced with a situation that you are uncomfortable with. This feeling can also be caused by the presence of other humans or animals. This uncomfortable feeling is called discomfort. Discomfort is a theme that is used by both Raymond Carver and Nathanial Hawthorn in each of their short stories. In Raymond Carver’s “The Cathedral,” a husband is uncomfortable about his wife’s old boss staying at his and hers house. He is uncomfortable with her boss because it happens to be a man who is blind and the fact that he is blind bothers him. In Nathanial Hawthorns “The Birth-Mark,” A scientist…show more content…
Both authors use foil characters in order to advance their themes. In “The Cathedral”, the husband’s wife is considered a foil character because through conversation she helps us realize that the husband doesn’t want to have the blind man stay with them. An example of the wife being used as a foil character would be when her and her husband are having a conversation before the blind man arrives, she says ““If you love”, she said, “you can do this for me. If you don’t love me, okay. But if you had a friend, any friend and that friend came to visit, I’d make him feel comfortable” (34). The husband returned the comment by saying “I don’t have any blind friends” (34). Through the subtle conversation with his wife, we find out that the husband is more uncomfortable with the man being blind vs. being a normal man staying at his house. The husband is different from his wife in how comfortable each of them feel about blind people. Similar to the way Carver uses the wife character, Hawthorne also uses a foil character. In Hawthorn’s story he uses Aminadab, Aylmer’s assistant as a character to help reveal to us how Aylmer really feels. In the story Aminadab says, “If she were my wife, I’d never part with that birth-mark” (342). This shows us that other people don’t have any problem with the birth-mark and just Aylmer who thinks the thing is hideous. Aminadab…show more content…
One other way the authors use the characters is through character development related to the plot. The husband is a character who we see change through the story. At the beginning we learn that he does not want anything to do with the blind man because his blindness makes him uncomfortable. Truth be told though he had never met a blind man and through the story we see him start to question his own discomfort an example of this is when the husband states, “I remember having read somewhere that the blind didn’t smoke because as speculation had, they couldn’t see the smoke they exhaled. I thought I knew that much and that much only about blind people. But this blind man smokes his cigarette down to the nubbin and then lit another” (36). The husband starts questioning what he thinks about the blind by starting to realize that he’s just like any other human and that he shouldn’t be as uncomfortable around the blind man.