In both Doris Lessing’s “To Room Nineteen” and Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral”, the protagonists exhibit a kind of selfishness. Although they share this similarity, they present their selfishness in different ways, and ultimately make very different life decisions based upon this.
The Rawling family had “everything right, appropriate, and what everyone would wish for, if they could choose.” The husband and wife, Matthew and Susan, had a picture-perfect marriage, “…people to whom others came for advice.” Despite this, Susan felt a “certain flatness.” She was endlessly looking forward to the day when their twins would go off to school for the first time, and then all the children would be “off her hands.” When this day came, however, she
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206). As soon as the blind man entered his home, the protagonist began to judge him and was quick to stereotype: “the blind man, feature this, he was wearing a full beard! A beard on a blind man! Too much, I say.” (p. 209). After his wife had fallen asleep, as he and the blind man watched TV together, they had a chance to interact on their own. The blind man asked him to describe what a cathedral was like, and after little success he then asked if they could draw one together. Drawing with his eyes closed, the protagonist says, “It was like nothing else in my life up to now” (p. 216), displaying how this moment completely changed his viewpoint. As they finish the drawing, he decides to keep his eyes shut, so that if only for a moment, he can attempt to understand the blind man. Throughout “To Room Nineteen” and “Cathedral”, the protagonists display selfishness in their own way. As they have this in common, there are a few differences in the way they approach this trait, which are very important to analyze. Susan in “To Room Nineteen”, is very obviously selfish throughout the entire story. She was in a constant search for solitude and distance from her family and her home, where she felt she was being tied down and torn away from the immense freedom she felt she deserved. In the end, her thoughtlessness led her to kill herself, committing the one last selfish step of her life. The protagonist in “Cathedral” however, showed a great deal of ignorance toward the blind