The famous short story ‘Cat in the Rain’ by Ernest Hemingway was first published in 1925, in the short story collection In Our Time. The story is a masterpiece by the author, which captures a few hours in the life of an American couple vacationing in Italy, commonly regarded as one of the romance capitals in the world. The story poignantly shows how indifference and carelessness from the husband cause the wife to focus on a wandering cat for fulfillment. It presents the tragedy of an unnamed American wife who becomes a victim of marital neglect. In her failed attempt to get a cat in the rain, Hemingway shows her desire to be completely feminine.
The story ‘Cat in the Rain’ tells more about the American conjugal life, about the isolation of an American wife, than about the cat in the rain. It depicts the disillusionment of a married couple. The story is very brief but replete with meaning and symbolism. Hemingway’s language is very simple but the style is very terse. As the reader goes through the story, Hemingway’s famous ‘ice-berg theory’ comes into play. In fact, after going through the story, one feels that the unsaid is more important than what is said by the characters. Perhaps the proverb “Brevity in the soul of wit” is applicable in the substance of this story, because within a brief compass of a short story, Hemingway has been able to reveal a vital truth of life.
Plot Summary of the Cat in the Rain
Ernest Hemingway’s famous short story ‘Cat in the Rain’ is about an American couple that spends their holidays in an Italian hotel. It is a rainy day. The husband, George is lying on the bed reading. The wife is looking out the window. She sees a cat outside trying, to protect it from getting soaked. She wants to protect the cat from the raindrops. She announces her intention of going to get it. Her husband offers to do it for her, but he does not get up from the bed; he does not really mean it.
The wife goes out of the hotel, which is kept by an Old Italian. When she passes the lobby the hotel owner rises and bows to her. The gestures and short conversation from the hotel owner please her. In this dialogue, Hemingway specifically emphasizes how the wife “likes” the innkeeper, a word that is repeated often throughout the story:
“The wife liked him. She liked the deadly serious way he received any complaints. She liked his dignity. She liked the way he wanted to serve her. She liked the way he felt about being a hotel-keeper. She liked his old, heavy face and big hands”.Hemingway, Ernest (2006) . In Our Time. New York: Scribner.
The wife is stopped by the rain as she tries to go out and get the cat. A maid, sent by the hotel-keeper, holds an umbrella for her. The cat is gone, and the wife expresses that she wanted a cat so much. After returning to the hotel room, she starts a conversation with her husband George, who is reading all the time. In her conversation, she stresses how much she wants to have a cat and the other things she wants with her life.
“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.”Hemingway, Ernest (2006) . In Our Time. New York: Scribner.
George apparently pays a deaf ear to his wife’s words. She looks in the mirror and asks him if she should grow her hair out. The husband replies in brief that he likes it as it is. The wife then begins to lament her many wants and needs. The husband seems to be annoyed by that. He coolly asks her to “shut up”. At the end of the story there is a knock on the door and the maid stands there holding a big cat for the American woman in her hands.