The short story Cat in the rain by Ernest Hemingway is one of my favorite pieces of short fiction written by an American writer. I read the story for the first time in my second year at the university and, ever since then, whenever I met people who shared my passion for literature, I bring up Cat in the rain. What puzzles me most is the uncertainty that I have regarding the cat. Is the cat that the American woman saw in the rain the same one with the cat that the innkeeper gave her at the end of the short story?
The short story Cat in the Rain was written in the 1920’s. It is about an American couple who spends their holidays in an Italian hotel. It is a rainy day and the American woman sees a cat in the rain, which she wants to protect from the raindrops. When she goes out of the hotel, which is kept by an old Italian (who seems to do everything to please the woman), and wants to get the cat, it is gone. Upon returning to the hotel room, she starts a conversation with her husband George, who has been reading all this time, and tells him how much she wants to have a cat (and other things). Her husband seems to be annoyed by what she says and is not interested at all. At the end of the story there is a knock on the door and a maid comes, holding in her hands a cat for the American woman.
Point of view
This is an intriguing story, one of relatively few in Hemingway’s writings told from the point of view of a woman. It is important to mention that, as a writer, Hemingway was obsessed with masculinity, violence and death.
Although the point of view is third-person omniscient, our sympathies as readers lie with the female protagonist, referred to only as “the American wife.” The story works its way through her consciousness as she spies a stray cat huddled under a dripping table outside an Italian hotel and her attempt to rescue it.
The beginning of the story stands for the rising action: the background, the characters, and the setting are clearly presented. First there is a description of the environment: good weather, which means spring or summer, then a description of the situation in the rain. This description creates an atmosphere that is sad, cold and unfriendly. To create this atmosphere, Hemingway uses words and expressions such as “empty” and “the motorcars were gone”. By analyzing the relationship of the two Americans, we understand that this description foreshadows the state of the couple’s relationship: at first it was a nice one, the spring-time of their love, but now there is only rain; their relationship has become cold and unfriendly. Another symbolic hint in the introduction is the war monument, which is mentioned three times. This is maybe done to tell us that a conflict is to be expected.
Hemingway’s characters are mostly men. A cat in the rain is thought to be an exception from that rule, as the main role is played by a woman. This woman’s story, who feels trapped in a relation, is a good proof of Hemingway’s philosophy. He believed that people are isolated, lonely and not able to establish happy relationships. The writer himself was a perfect example when, in 1961, his depression led him to suicide.
Of significant importance is the author’s attitude towards the main characters. Hemingway’s attitude towards the wife, the innkeeper, and the husband influence the reader’s perception of these characters. The wife is the central character in the story and the reader feels a great deal of sympathy for her. Hemingway chooses not to include any negative details about the woman’s personality. In fact, the wife is a relatively flat character. The reader learns that she is unsatisfied in many aspects of her marriage life, and that she enjoys the flattery of the innkeeper. Otherwise, the reader does not discover any other information about the unhappy wife. Hemingway’s lack of details encourages the reader to view the...
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