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And Girls At War
In the short stories “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver and
“Girls at War” by Chinua Achebe, the theme of blindness is prevalent.

In “The Cathedral” Robert, the man who comes to visit, is physically
blind, but in his mind, he sees things more clearly than most others do. His
“mental-vision” is seen when he travels to his ex-employee’s house to
visit for a couple days. Robert knows the implications of the situation he is
putting himself in. The husband, who is the narrator, could be jealous and this
whole trip could turn out adversely for the blind man. The husband could be
nonchalant about Robert’s knowledge of his wife and making the trip all the
worth while. Robert is not the only one in the story to have vision. When the
husband offers Robert some marijuana, he is taking a risk. He thinks the blind
man will be ok with the idea of it but he does not know for sure. He could end
up turning Robert off and that would be then end of their relationship and any
hope of ever having one. Robert turns out to be open to new experiences,
although he has never tried it; he gives it a try. Both of these people have a
vision that is lacking by the wife. The narrator’s vision is not clouded by the
things he sees. Robert relies totally on his inner vision to guide him because
he is blind. Because both of these people have a vision that is not possessed by
Robert’s wife, they get along very well and hit it off from the start. The
wife’s lack of vision is seen when she first introduces Robert to her husband.

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Her husband asks Robert what side of the train he sat on. After making this
remark his wife tells him off for asking a question that would not make any
sense to ask a blind man, since his view of the scenery is the same no matter
which side he sits on. His wife does not realize that her husband is trying to
start a conversation. Since he has probably never talked to a blind man, he does
not know what to say. Her vision clouds her inner vision’s ability to realize
that he is trying to be being polite. Her lack of vision is seen again when she
comes downstairs and realizes that Robert and her husband are smoking a joint.

She is completely confused about Robert smoking marijuana. “My wife came
back downstairs wearing her pink robe and her pink slippers. ‘What do I smell?’
she said. ‘We thought we’d have us some cannabis,’ I said. My wife gave me a
savage look. Then she looked at the blind man and said, ‘Robert, I didn’t know
you smoked.’ He said, ‘ I do now my dear. There’s a first time for everything.

But I don’t feel anything yet.” Here you can see the narrator’s wife numb
to the idea of smoking marijuana with her guest. In her blindness, she does
realize that other people might smoke marijuana. That is why she gave her
husband “a savage look.” She did not realize that anyone else she knew
smoked marijuana. In Chinua Achebe’s short story, “Girls at War” there
is a blindness in the character of Reginald Nwankwo. He was blind to see his
future right in front of his face even when she stopped him and searched his
car. “All right sir, close it.” Then she opened the rear door and bent
down to inspect under the seats. It was then he took the first real look at her,
khaki jeans and canvas shoes with the new-style hair-plait which gave a girl a
defiant look and which they called – for reasons of their own – “air force
base”; and she looked vaguely familiar. The narrator later continues to
tell about how they had met each other before. Here Reginald does not realize
what he is seeing. He is looking at a girl and can realize that she is pretty.

However his vision stops at the surface and he does not realize that she is
trying to get to know him. Later in the story, Reginald meets her again. This
time he sees her when he goes to get supplies for himself and his family. When
he meets her, she is walking home and he picks her up in his car like a
hitch-hiker. “‘No, no, no’ said Nwankwo firmly. ‘It’s the young woman I
stopped for. I have a bad tyre and can only take one person. Sorry.’ ‘My son,
please,’ cried one old woman in despair, gripping the door handle.”
Reginald refuses to give the old woman a ride. He realized what this girl meant
to his life when, by chance, they had met three times in a row. This time he
took her in and tried to understand what exactly was going on. Reginald was able
to open his inner eye and see that there was something more to this girl thatn
meets the eye, and he wanted to check her out. He had broken the blindness of
his inner eye. Now he could see what this was supposed to mean to his life. When
he realized that this girl meant a lot to him was, “‘Plane!; screamed the
boys from the kitchen. ‘My mother!’ screamed Gladys. As they scuttled towards
the bunker of palm stems and red earth… ‘Don’t be so scared.’ He said. She
moved closer and he began to kiss her and squeeze her breasts. She yielded more
and more and then fully.” Here during the fright of death the only thing
Reginald could think of was being with the girl of his dreams. He had realized
what she had known he was the one for her since the day she meet him. When two
caucasian Red Cross people show up at a party, they are not able to see with
their eyes because they were intoxicated. However, they are still not able to
see with their inner eyes either. Therefore, they only see what they already
know. The two Red Cross people had gotten drunk because a friend of theirs had
been shot down and killed while flying relief to other parts of the country.

Here the Red Cross people vocalize their opinions on the war and the people they
are flying relief for. “Why should a man, a decent man throw away his life.

For nothing! Charley didn’t need to die. Not for this stinking place… Even
these girls who come here all dolled up and smiling, what are they worth? …

one American dollar and they are ready to tumble into bed.” The Red Cross
man cannot see that everyone at the party was partying because they were sick of
seeing the hate and anger of war. That was the point of the party. There is a
vision that everyone is able to use. This vision is not in the form of millions
of colors but of words and circumstances. Like the bat that does not see with
its eyes but its form of RADAR, some people are able to see the sub-plot in the
situation that most people cannot see. Reginald Nwankwo learns to see with this
form of vision and is able to realize what his life was all about: Gladys. The
narrator in “The Cathedral” was able to see with this vision and so
was Robert. All of these people could be considered blind-as-a-bat by most, but
by the few who can see without their eyes, they are considered enlightened.


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