● Lack of love or affection
“The Cat in the Rain” by Ernest Hemingway is about an American girl visiting Italy with her husband. The story starts off with a vivid description (unusual for Hemingway) of the courtyard and the area surrounding the hotel the couple are staying in. The wife, bored one rainy afternoon, sees a cat outside underneath a table, trying to stay dry. She wants the cat, so she goes downstairs to retrieve it. In the lobby, she sees the hotel-keeper. She gives us a description of the man, and the reasons why she likes him (which she never does for George).They talk for a short while, and then she goes outside and is given an umbrella by the maid that takes care of their room. The maid and the American girl search for the cat, but don’t find it. They go back inside, and the American girl walks back upstairs to her room. She talks to George about wanting the cat very much, and wanting long hair, and how she wishes it were spring. She tells us of other material wishes, like “my own silver” and “I want candles.” George tells her to shut up and get something to read. At the end, the maid opens the door and has a big cat in her arms, sent to the American girl by the hotel-keeper.
All throughout the story there are foreshadowing details presented. This helps us to fully understand the relationships in the story, specifically between the American girl and George. She seems to have a very stereotypical and clinical marriage with George. She makes it very obvious that she wants something more,
“I want to pull my hair back tight and smooth and make a big knot at the back that I can feel,” she said. “I want to have a kitty to sit on my lap and purr when I stroke her.”
“Yeah?” George said from the bed.
“And I want to eat at a table with my own silver and I want candles. And I want it to be spring and I want to brush my hair out in front of a mirror and I want a kitty and I want some new clothes.”
This states that she is unhappy with the marriage, but George has no problems. He thinks that their marriage is fine the way it is. These statements imply that something is up with this twosome, but we don’t really know what it is.
I also tracked symbolism in the story. I think that symbolism is something that Hemingway uses quite a bit in his work, and I personally admire it. In this story, I think that the cat stood for something very important involving the relationship of the American girl and George. The American wife is obviously very unhappy, and I think that may be due to the physical side of their marriage. When I first read the story, I took the cat as a symbol for a child, and that the wife wanted a baby. The cat could be a stand-in because George did not want a kid. But after some research, I know that cats can sometimes stand as women themselves, feline = feminine. And so the cat could stand for the wife as being a little lost, uncomfortable and wishing that her life was not so dreary. Which brings us to the rain. Rain is a very important aspect of this story, as it is said many times that it is raining, and how the wife must not get wet.
It was raining. The rain dripped from the palm trees. Water stood in pools on the gravel paths. The sea broke in a long line in the rain and slipped back down the beach to come up and break again in a long line in the rain.
I thought that was an interesting point to the story, why was the woman told that she shouldn’t get wet so many times? It may have had a symbolic meaning, but to me, a lesser one.
I think that that brings me to my final idea, the lack of love or affection even between the American wife and George. As I said before, they had a very detached marriage, and I think that is the way that George liked it. For example,
“Oh, shut up and get something to read,” George said. He was reading again. His wife was looking out of the window. It was quite dark now and still raining in the palm trees.
He exerts quite a dominance and disinterest over her, and that is proved by the fact that she is never called anything but “the wife” or the “American girl.” When she is wishing for longer hair, he never calls her pretty, just “pretty darn nice.” This shows that he doesn’t think of her in any physical way, just as something cute. This relates to the wife and the padrone’s relationship. They talk to each other in an endearing way, it’s almost as if they care for each other in a way that is not acceptable.
Something felt very small and tight inside the girl. The padrone made her feel very small and at the same time really important. She had a momentary feeling of being of supreme importance.
This makes it seem like she is feeling recognized, but also something else. Something that is different from the ways that she says she likes him before.
In my own writing, I would like to experiment with symbolism. I think that it is a powerful way to make writing more involved and interesting. And mind-blowing when you catch the meaning. Hemingway utilizes these objects very well, and that is what I would like my own writing to reflect. I also think that using these techniques can help a story to flow, and help it to be intricate and complex.
● Did you think the cat at the end was the same as the cat at the beginning?
● What did the cat stand for? What did the padrone stand for?
● Did the maid have symbolism? If so, what?