The use of symbols in Cat in the Rain by Ernest Hemingway

The use of symbolism or symbols in ‘Cat in the Rain’ by Ernest Hemingway is useful to understand the short story. There are four symbols in this short story. These four symbols are the ‘rain’, the ‘cat’, the ‘empty square’ and the ‘war monument’. We are here going to discuss these symbols.

A symbol is anything that signifies or stands for something else. In literature a symbol is usually something concrete, an object, a place, a character or an action that stands for or suggests something abstract.

Hemingway’s short story ‘Cat in the Rain’ is replete with symbols. The story is about an American couple-George and his wife who are vacationing in Italy. They have been compelled by the rough weather to remain confined within the hotel room but there is no proper relationship and understanding between the husband and the wife. The cat is being drenched in the rains, a difficult situation of its life. Similarly the American wife also suffers from the odds of life, her extreme isolation and it is difficult for her to come out of it.

Rain is used in many of Hemingway’s stories to symbolize sadness. Rain is mentioned six times in the opening paragraph. The couple is isolated from the people outside or the people around them. This becomes clear when we come to learn that “they do not know any one, and they are the only Americans in the hotel.” Because of rain and storm, they are confined in the hotel room. The wife sees through the window a cat trying to get out of the rain in the square located below their room. She expresses her desire to get the kitty and George half-heartedly agrees to get it for her. The indifferent husband soon forgets the whole matter and remains busy reading his books. He appears reluctant to help her in getting the cat. She makes an unsuccessful attempt to get the cat. Returning to the room, she indulges in an emotional outburst, but is ultimately silenced by the domineering husband.

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The cat is a powerful symbol in the story. The cat in various ways serves as the image and the symbol of the lack of relationship between the husband and the wife. The unnamed wife signifies the fact that she worries about the cat and does not want it to be hurt or confined by the rain.

There are many critics who think that the cat is actually a symbol for a child that the woman desperately wants. This is because the things, she wants are associated with femininity. She wants long hair and flowers, and her own silverware. George completely ignores her complaints and tells her to “shut up and get something to read.” There are other symbols among which setting is noteworthy. The ‘empty square’ seen from the hotel room suggests a sense of aridity and barrenness. The war monument, mentioned thrice, suggesting destruction or death, adds to the negative mood of the story. The war monument signifying decay, degeneration and conflict, suggests lack of passion in the life of the American couple.

To sum up, Hemingway’s use of symbols in ‘Cat in the Rain’ has been wonderful to convey the message of the story.

You can watch this essay in Youtube.

Symbolism in ‘Cat in the Rain’.

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