The works of Fences and the Cathedral are unsurpassed representatives of the genre of postmodern literature, saturated with feelings and emotions. The authors of both works trace the development of relations between people, their hopes, and love. Both works deal with similar themes and can be considered together. The central and most exciting pieces of Fences and the Cathedral are the issue of isolation, human rigidity, disbelief in society, and gender roles.
Issue of Isolation
The name Fences is associated by readers with fencing equipment that hides or protects its owners or objects behind it. In Fences, there are both direct allusions to the fence and symbolic ones. Troy and his son Cory are trying to build a fence in their backyard, but they do not finish the job. Rose, the mother of the family, wanted to protect herself this way from prying eyes (Wilson, 2016). At the same time, Troy, often in conversations with Corey, talks about the experience of segregation, which is a symbol of the fence, only socially symbolic.
In the Cathedral, however, there is more room for figurative meanings, and Robert, a blind man, although he can only partially perceive the world around him, the Narrator suffers natural isolation. The Narrator has no friends and is communicative and inexperienced despite his age and marriage. Although the Narrator’s wife finds strength in her hobbies and art, the Narrator is content with himself and watching TV (Carver, 1989). His life is monotonous, even if he does not want to admit it. Robert, who came to their house, disturbs the peace and eternal isolation of the Narrator, which gives rise to conflict between men.
Both main characters in the works are rigid men who oppose changes in time and society and the way of life of other people. Troy does not take Lyons’ musical hobbies seriously, despite Lyons happily inviting him to a concert. Troy resists Corey’s sports passion and persuades him to quit football. He appeals to social injustice and segregation, does not listen to his son’s arguments, and does not believe that sports and other people could change. The narrator in another work is inaccurate in his statements and confidently bends his line of views on life, society, and women. He sees that neither the spouses nor Robert can agree with him but demonstrates obstinacy. He refuses to listen to them, and even his wife’s suicide attempt is not perceived as a serious signal.
Disbelief in Society
It is apparent in Troy in Fences, as it bears the marks of incarceration and segregation. Disappointed in people, he trusts only his wife and a close friend from work with whom he can talk heart to heart. He perceives the surrounding society as harmful people, and the example of Gabriel confirms such views. The son who suffered during the war is distraught and demonstrates by living example the sincere disinterest of society in his black members. However, Troy was able to buy a house with payments after the war. The Narrator in the Cathedral will not trust either society or religion; he shares his frustrations with Robert but does not think it is important to educate him deeply about these issues (Carver, 1989). Admiring the cathedrals, the Narrator indicates to Robert that this does not mean anything profound to him. Still, the interest with which he tries to describe the cathedrals to the blind man makes one doubt his presumptuous words.
Readers here are only interested in female roles, as both protagonists do not take their spouses seriously. Moreover, Troy’s mistress, Albertina, who gives birth to a daughter from him, suddenly dies, and this death facilitates a quarrel with Rose. Despite the brutal skirmish between the two spouses and Corey’s acceptance of the mother’s side, Albertine could not personally disturb the family’s peace (Wilson, 2016). Rose is a responsible person; she gave birth to Troy’s sons and earned superficial respect, which Troy talks about with his friend. He does not love his wife but is attached to her and recognizes her comfort and habit. However, he can be rough with her until another person stops him.
The Narrator in the Cathedral culminates in demonstrating his wife’s pejorative stance. He calls his wife’s hobbies into question, mocking new acquaintances, poems, and music. He ignores the memories that are significant to her and does not want to pay attention to what worries her. Robert makes him envious in this regard, as he assigns her a different role by listening to her. Repeatedly the Narrator emphasizes that the blind man cannot see the beauty of either his wife or Biola. It made them automatically unhappy, as the Narrator believes; this tells readers that he perceives women as decoration.
Through issues of isolation, trust, gender roles, and rigidity, the main characters show their lack of understanding of others, leading to conflicts. Troy does not understand his children and diligently imposes his point of view on them. He applies his experience to the experience of Lyons and Corey, which does not correspond to reality. The Narrator does not understand the excitement and feelings of his wife. Seeing Robert, who is so attractive to his wife, he flares up with jealousy and turns into a self-satisfied fool. Robert subsequently changes his worldview through joint drawing, instilling faith in him and forcing him to abandon his usual rigidity.
Carver, R. (1989). Cathedral (Reissue). Vintage.
Wilson, A. (2016). Fences [Print version]. Van Haren Publishing.