Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Conversational, Conspiratorial, Sincere, Lowbrow, Wise-cracking
In "Cathedral" it feels like the narrator is just talking to us, trying to keep us amused, telling us what happened in clear and precise terms. It's conspiratorial because he's telling us how he really feels, but without getting mushy about it or trying to make us like him. The narrator tells us what's going down, without telling us how to feel about it. He trusts us enough to share the moment with us.
Underneath the constant stream of lowbrow wisecracks, often in the form of jokes about blind people, we hear a tone of sincerity. He isn't softening things up for us. He's intent on giving us the unadorned truth. The narrator knows he's in a rut, but feels little hope of ever getting out of it. He never imagined that a blind man spending the night might show him that solutions to his problems might be right before his eyes, but only if he closes them.