January 24, 2004

Copying the Cathedrals

Plato taught that art is merely an imitation of a form -- a copy of a copy that cannot be trusted. [Let's put aside the thought that much of Plato's writing consists of him creating a copy of something Socrates discussed, and Aristotle? Just a distorted rendition of Socrates and Plato. Ha! None of them are to be trusted!] In Raymond Carver's short story, "Cathedral," the husband draws a cathedral so that Robert (who is blind) can experience it.

However, the husband may or may not have ever seen a "real" medieval cathedral. Those cathedrals are so different from anything in the U.S.; first, because they are so old, and second, because they were a hand-made communal effort. If the reader assumes that the husband never saw a "real" cathedral, he's merely reproducing an image that he saw on TV. Yet, he knows what a cathedral looks like enough to draw a rough sketch of it to explain to someone else what a cathedral looks like.

The husband's cathedral drawing isn't even viewed by Robert. Instead, it is felt. Robert places his hand over the husband's to feel his movements. Then, he traces the indentation that the pen made on the paper.

According to Plato, Robert isn't reaching the truth. Instead, he is like the people in the "Allegory of the Cave," not knowing what reality is because all they know is a fabrication. However, Carver seems to indicate that Robert finds the truth in the copy of a copy of a cathedral at the end of the story. It doesn't matter what the cathedral looks like -- what ends up mattering most is the relationship that is formed because of the copies.

Posted by Julie Young at January 24, 2004 06:36 PM
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