Solved by verified expert:Choose a character from one of the stories we’ve read, and, in at least 750 words, do a detailed analysis of that character by which you argue what you think is the character’s biggest flaw or biggest strength. If you like, you may write about more than one character and compare/contrast them. Make sure to cite the story (or stories) and any outside source(s) you might use in a works-cited section.
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By Raymond Carver (1981)
This blind man, an old friend of my wife’s, he was on his way to
spend the night. His wife had died. So he was visiting the dead wife’s
relatives in Connecticut. He called my wife from his in-law’s. Arrangements
were made. He would come by train, a five-hour trip, and my wife would
meet him at the station. She hadn’t seen him since she worked for him one
summer in Seattle ten years ago. But she and the blind man had kept in
touch. They made tapes and mailed them back and forth. I wasn’t
enthusiastic about his visit. He was no one I knew. And his being blind
bothered me. My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the
blind moved slowly and never laughed. Sometimes they were led by seeingeye dogs. A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to.
That summer in Seattle she had needed a job. She didn’t have any
money. The man she was going to marry at the end of the summer was in
officers’ training school. He didn’t have any money, either. But she was in
love with the guy, and he was in love with her, etc. She’d seen something in
the paper: HELP WANTED—Reading to Blind Man, and a telephone
number. She phoned and went over, was hired on the spot. She worked with
this blind man all summer. She read stuff to him, case studies, reports, that
sort of thing. She helped him organize his little office in the county socialservice department. They’d become good friends, my wife and the blind
man. On her last day in the office, the blind man asked if he could touch her
face. She agreed to this. She told me he touched his fingers to every part of
her face, her nose—even her neck! She never forgot it. She even tried to
write a poem about it. She was always trying to write a poem. She wrote a
poem or two every year, usually after something really important had
happened to her.
When we first started going out together, she showed me the poem. In
the poem, she recalled his fingers and the way they had moved around over
her face. In the poem, she talked about what she had felt at the time, about
what went through her mind when the blind man touched her nose and lips. I
can remember I didn’t think much of the poem. Of course, I didn’t tell her
that. Maybe I just don’t understand poetry. I admit it’s not the first thing I
reach for when I pick up something to read.
Anyway, this man who’d first enjoyed her favors, this officer-to-be,
he’d been her childhood sweetheart. So okay. I’m saying that at the end of
the summer she let the blind man run his hands over her face, said good-bye
to him, married her childhood etc., who was now a commissioned officer,
and she moved away from Seattle. But they’d keep in touch, she and the
blind man. She made the first contact after a year or so. She called him up
one night from an Air Force base in Alabama. She wanted to talk. They
talked. He asked her to send him a tape and tell him about her life. She did
this. She sent the tape. On the tape, she told the blind man she loved her
husband but she didn’t like it where they lived and she didn’t like it that he
was a part of the military-industrial thing. She told the blind man she’d
written a poem and he was in it. She told him that she was writing a poem
about what it was like to be an Air Force officer’s wife. The poem wasn’t
finished yet. She was still writing it. The blind man made a tape. He sent her
the tape. She made a tape. This went on for years. My wife’s officer was
posted to one base and then another. She sent tapes from Moody AFB,
McGuire, McConnell, and finally Travis, near Sacramento, where one night
she got to feeling lonely and cut off from people she kept losing in that
moving-around life. She got to feeling she couldn’t go it another step. She
went in and swallowed all the pills and capsules in the medicine chest and
washed them down with a bottle of gin. Then she got into a hot bath and
But instead of dying, she got sick. She threw up. Her officer—why
should he have a name? he was the childhood sweetheart, and what more
does he want?—came home from somewhere, found her, and called the
ambulance. In time, she put it all on tape and sent the tape to the blind man.
Over the years, she put all kinds of stuff on tapes and sent the tapes off
lickety-split. Next to writing a poem every year, I think it was her chief
means of recreation. On one tape, she told the blind man she’d decided to
live away from her officer for a time. On another tape, she told him about
her divorce. She and I began going out, and of course she told her blind man
about it. She told him everything, or so it seemed to me. Once she asked me
if I’d like to hear the latest tape from the blind man. This was a year ago. I
was on the tape, she said. So I said okay, I’d listen to it. I got us drinks and
we settled down in the living room. We made ready to listen. First she
inserted the tape into the player and adjusted a couple of dials. Then she
pushed a lever. The tape squeaked and someone began to talk in this loud
voice. She lowered the volume. After a few minutes of harmless chitchat, I
heard my own name in the mouth of this stranger, this blind man I didn’t
even know! And then this: “From all you’ve said about him, I can only
conclude—“ But we were interrupted, a knock at the door, something, and
we didn’t ever get back to the tape. Maybe it was just as well. I’d heard all I
Now this same blind man was coming over to sleep in my house.
“Maybe I could take him bowling,” I said to my wife. She was at the
draining board doing scalloped potatoes. She put down the knife she was
using and turned around.
“If you love me,” she said, “you can do this for me. If you don’t love
me, okay. But if you had a friend, any friend, and the friend came to visit,
I’d make him feel comfortable.” She wiped her hands with the dish towel.
“I don’t have any blind friends,” I said.
“You don’t have any friends,” she said. “Period. Besides,” she said,
“goddamn it, his wife’s just died! Don’t you understand that? The man’s lost
I didn’t answer. She’d told me a little about the blind man’s wife. Her
name was Beulah. Beulah! That’s a name for a colored woman.
“Was his wife a Negro?” I asked.
“Are you crazy?” my wife said. “Have you just flipped or
something?” She picked up a potato. I saw it hit the floor, then roll under the
stove. “What’s wrong with you?” she said. “Are you drunk?”
“I’m just asking,” I said.
Right then my wife filled me in with more detail than I cared to know.
I made a drink and sat at the kitchen table to listen. Pieces of the story began
to fall into place.
Beulah had gone to work for the blind man the summer after my wife
had stopped working for him. Pretty soon Beulah and the blind man had
themselves a church wedding. It was a little wedding—who’d want to go to
such a wedding in the first place?—just the two of them, plus the minister
and the minister’s wife. But it was a church wedding just the same. It was
what Beulah had wanted, he’d said. But even then Beulah must have been
carrying the cancer in her glands. After they had been inseparable for eight
years—my wife’s word, inseparable—Beulah’s health went into a rapid
decline. She died in a Seattle hospital room, the blind man sitting beside the
bed and holding on to her hand. They’d married, lived and worked together,
slept together—had sex, sure—and then the blind man had to bury her. All
this without his having ever seen what the goddamned woman looked like. It
was beyond my understanding. Hearing this, I felt sorry for the blind man
for a little bit. And then I found myself thinking what a pitiful life this
woman must have led. Imagine a woman who could never see herself as she
was seen in the eyes of her loved one. A woman who could go on day after
day and never receive the smallest compliment from her beloved. A woman
whose husband could never read the expression on her face, be it misery or
something better. Someone who could wear makeup or not—what difference
to him? She could if she wanted, wear green eye-shadow around one eye, a
straight pin in her nostril, yellow slacks, and purple shoes, no matter. And
then to slip off into death, the blind man’s hand on her hand, his blind eyes
streaming tears—I’m imagining now—her last thought maybe this: that he
never even knew what she looked like, and she on an express to the grave.
Robert was left with a small insurance policy and half of a twenty-peso
Mexican coin. The other half of the coin went into the box with her.
So when the time rolled around, my wife went to the depot to pick
him up. With nothing to do but wait—sure, I blamed him for that—I was
having a drink and watching the TV when I heard the car pull into the drive.
I got up from the sofa with my drink and went to the window to have a look.
I saw my wife laughing as she parked the car. I saw her get out of the
car and shut the door. She was still wearing a smile. Just amazing. She went
around to the other side of the car to where the blind man was already
starting to get out. This blind man, feature this, he was wearing a full beard!
A beard on a blind man! Too much, I say. The blind man reached into the
backseat and dragged out a suitcase. My wife took his arm, shut the car door,
and, talking all the way, moved him down the drive and then up the steps to
the front porch. I turned off the TV. I finished my drink, rinsed the glass,
dried my hands. Then I went to the door.
My wife said, “I want you to meet Robert. Robert, this is my husband.
I’ve told you all about him.” She was beaming. She had this blind man by
his coat sleeve.
The blind man let go of his suitcase and up came his hand.
I took it. He squeezed hard, held my hand, and then he let it go.
“I feel like we’ve already met,” he boomed.
“Likewise,” I said. I didn’t know what else to say. Then I said,
“Welcome. I’ve heard a lot about you.” We began to move then, a little
group, from the porch into the living room, my wife guiding him by the arm.
The blind man was carrying his suitcase in his other hand. My wife said
things like, “To your left here, Robert. That’s right. Now watch it, there’s a
chair. That’s it. Sit down right here. This is the sofa. We just bought this
sofa two weeks ago.”
I started to say something about the old sofa. I’d liked that old sofa.
But I didn’t say anything. Then I wanted to say something else, small-talk,
about the scenic ride along the Hudson. How going to New York, you
should sit on the right-hand side of the train, and coming from New York,
the left-hand side.
“Did you have a good train ride?” I said. “Which side of the train did
you sit on, by the way?”
“What a question, which side!” my wife said. “What’s it matter which
side?” she said.
“I just asked,” I said.
“Right side,” the blind man said. “I hadn’t been on a train in nearly
forty years. Not since I was a kid. With my folks. That’s been a long time.
I’d nearly forgotten the sensation. I have winter in my beard now, “ he said.
“So I’ve been told, anyway. Do I look distinguished, my dear?” the blind
man said to my wife.
“You look distinguished, Robert,” she said. “Robert,” she said.
“Robert, it’s just so good to see you.”
My wife finally took her eyes off the blind man and looked at me. I
had the feeling she didn’t like what she saw. I shrugged.
I’ve never met, or personally known, anyone who was blind. This
blind man was late forties, a heavy-set, balding man with stooped shoulders,
as if he carried a great weight there. He wore brown slacks, brown shoes, a
light-brown shirt, a tie, a sports coat. Spiffy. He also had this full beard. But
he didn’t use a cane and he didn’t wear dark glasses. I’d always thought dark
glasses were a must for the blind. Fact was, I wish he had a pair. At first
glance, his eyes looked like anyone else’s eyes. But if you looked close,
there was something different about them. Too much white in the iris, for
one thing, and the pupils seemed to move around in the sockets without his
knowing it or being able to stop it. Creepy. As I stared at his face, I saw the
left pupil turn in toward his nose while the other made an effort to keep in
one place. But it was only an effort, for that one eye was on the roam
without his knowing it or wanting it to be.
I said, “Let me get you a drink. What’s your pleasure? We have a little
bit of everything. It’s one of our pastimes.”
“Bub, I’m a Scotch man myself,” he said fast enough in this big voice.
“Right,” I said. Bub! “Sure you are. I knew it.”
He let his fingers touch his suitcase, which was sitting alongside the
sofa. He was taking his bearings. I didn’t blame him for that.
“I’ll move that up to your room,” my wife said.
“No, that’s fine,” the blind man said loudly. “It can go up when I go
“A little water with the Scotch?” I said.
“Very little,” he said.
“I knew it, “ I said.
He said, “Just a tad. The Irish actor, Barry Fitzgerald? I’m like that
fellow. When I drink water, Fitzgerald said, I drink water. When I drink
whiskey, I drink whiskey.” My wife laughed. The blind man brought his
hand up under his beard. He lifted his beard slowly and let it drop.
I did the drinks, three big glasses of Scotch with a splash of water in
each. Then we made ourselves comfortable and talked about Robert’s
travels. First the long flight from the West Coast to Connecticut, we covered
that. Then from Connecticut up here by train. We had another drink
concerning that leg of the trip.
I remembered having read somewhere that the blind didn’t smoke
because, as speculation had it, they couldn’t see the smoke they exhaled. I
though I knew that much and that much only about blind people. But this
blind man smoked his cigarette down to the nubbin and then lit another one.
This blind man filled his ashtray and my wife emptied it.
When we sat down at the table for dinner, we had another drink. M
wife heaped Robert’s plate with cube steak, scalloped potatoes, green beans.
I buttered him up two slices of bread. I said, “Here’s bread and butter for
you.” I swallowed some of my drink. “Now let us pray,” I said, and the blind
man lowered his head. My wife looked at me, her mouth agape. “Pray the
phone won’t ring and the food doesn’t get cold,” I said.
We dug in. We ate everything there was to eat on the table. We ate
like there was no tomorrow. We didn’t talk. We ate. We scarfed. We grazed
the table. We were into serious eating. The blind man had right away located
his foods, he knew just where everything was on his plate. I watched with
admiration as he used his knife and fork on the meat. He’d cut two pieces of
the meat, fork the meat into his mouth, and then go all out for the scalloped
potatoes, the beans next, and then he’d tear off a hunk of buttered bread and
eat that. He’d follow this up with a big drink of milk. It didn’t seem to
bother him to use his fingers once in a while, either.
We finished everything, including half a strawberry pie. For a few
moments, we sat as if stunned. Swear beaded on our faces. Finally, we got
up from the table and left the dirty plates. We didn’t look back. We took
ourselves into the living room and sank into our places again. Robert and my
wife sat on the sofa. I took the big chair. We had us two or three more drinks
while they talked about the major things that had come to pass for them in
the past ten years. For the most part, I just listened. Now and then I joined
in. I didn’t want him to think I’d left the room, and I didn’t want her to think
I was feeling left out. They talked of things that had happened to them—to
them!—these past ten years. I waited in vain to hear my name on my wife’s
sweet lips: “And then my dear husband came into my life”—something like
that. But I heard nothing of the sort. More talk of Robert. Robert had done a
little of everything, it seemed, a regular blind jack-of-all-trades. But most
recently he and his wife had had an Amway distributorship, from which, I
gathered, they’d earned a living, such as it was. The blind man was also a
ham radio operator. He talked in his loud voice about conversations he’d had
with fellow operators in Guam, in the Philippines, in Alaska, and even in
Tahiti. He said he’d have a lot of friends there if her ever wanted to go visit
those places. From time to time, he’d turn his blind face toward me, put his
hand under his beard, ask me something. How long had I been in my present
position? (Three years.) Did I like my work? (I didn’t.) Was I going to stay
with it? (What were the options?) Finally, when I thought he was beginning
to run down, I got up and turned on the TV.
My wife looked at me with irritation. She was heading toward a boil.
Then she looked at the blind man and said, “Robert, do you have a TV?”
The blind man said, “My dear, I have two TVs. I have a color set and
a black-and-white thing, an old relic. It’s funny, but if I turn the TV on, and
I’m always turning it on, I turn on the color set. It’s funny, don’t you think?”
I didn’t know what to say to that. I had absolutely nothing to say to
that. No opinion. So I watched the news program and tried to listen to what
the announcer was saying.
“This is a color TV,” the blind man said. “Don’t ask me how, but I
“We traded up a while ago,” I said.
The blind man had another taste of his drink. He lifted his beard,
sniffed it, and let it fall. He leaned forward on the sofa. He positioned his
ashtray on the coffee table, then put the lighter to his cigarette. He leaned
back on the sofa and crossed his legs at the ankles.
My wife covered her mouth, and then she yawned. She stretched. She
said, “I think I’ll go upstairs and put on my robe. I think I’ll change into
something else. Robert, you make yourself comfortable,” she said.
“I’m comfortable,” the blind man said.
“I want you to feel comfortable in this house,” she said.
“I am comfortable,” the blind man said.
After she’d left the room, he and I listened to the weather report and
then to the sports roundup. By that time, she’d been gone so long I didn’t
know if she was going to come back. I thought she might have gone to bed. I
wished she’d come back downstairs. I didn’t want to be left alone with a
blind man. I asked him if he wanted another drink, and he said sure. Then I
asked if he wanted to smoke some dope with me. I said I’d just rolled a
number. I hadn’t, but I planned to do so in about two shakes.
“I’ll try some with you,” he said.
“Damn right,” I said. “That’s the stuff.”
I got our drinks and sat down on the sofa with him. Then I rolled us
two fat numbers. I lit one and passed it. I brought it to his fingers. He took it
“Hold it as long as you can,” I said. I could tell he didn’t know the
My wife came back downstairs wearing her pink robe and her pink
“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.”
“This stuff is pretty mellow,” I said. “This stuff is mild. It’s dope you
can reason with,” I said. “It doesn’t mess you up.”
“Not much it doesn’t, bub,” he said, and laughed.
My wife sat on the sofa between the blind man and me. I passed her
the number. She took it and toked and then passed it back to me. “Which
way is this going?” she said. Then she sai …
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