Analysis of Cat in the Rain by Earnest Hemingway

 

Earnest Hemingway (1899-1961) was a novelist, short story writer and a journalist. He belonged to the ‘lost generation’ who wrote aftermath of first world war. He with a group of artists generated a new movement called ‘modernism’ to accommodate the modern sensibilities. The short story Cat in the Rain was written in a collection of short stories called ‘In our times.’ Due to world war I, there was a breakdown in traditional notions in families and social institutions; leading individuals experiencing feeling of rootlessness and displacement. In the short story, the American and his wife travelling in Italy are representatives of this feeling of malice.

The story is set in Italian coastal resort. Time period is hinted using the war monument in the front garden of the resort; it is written after world war I.

Synopsis

An American couple stays at a hotel in Italy. It is raining outside and the wife observes a cat under one of the tables outside trying desperately not to get wet. She requires to bring the cat to her. Her husband, George is preoccupied with his own reading. So, she goes herself outside to fetch the cat. Italian hotel owner who seemingly have much concern about her health, send one of the maids with an umbrella. However, she could not find the cat. Disappointed, she unfolds her inner desires to have the cat and some new clothes as well. George is so engrossed in his reading, does not pay any attention to her speech. Annoyed, she keeps on muttering about her necessities as a young wife. Annoyed, George commands her to stay quiet. During their heated conversation, door bell rings and the maid comes with the cat under her arms.   

 

Themes

Importance of open and honest communication in a relationship.

There appears to have only a very superficial connection between the husband and the wife. The husband does not show much interest in the wife and this lack of attention and communication is evidenced by the fact that the wife is pleased when the hotel owner shows concern for her wellbeing. These are attentions that she apparently does not get from her husband.

Ill- effects of war making people rootless and emotionally paralyzed.

In the years following the Great War, there was a breakdown of traditional notions of family and other social institutions, leading to individuals experiencing feelings of rootlessness and displacement. In this short story, the American and his wife travelling in Italy are representatives of this pervasive feeling of malaise affecting society.

 

Structure and setting

The story is set around an Italian coastal resort. The lasting presence of the Great War is apparent in the war memorial that people come to visit. The outer setting of the holiday resort and the way the locals interact with it by coming to see the war monuments contrasts with the disinterest of the main characters in engaging with their environment. The story takes place in a relatively short space of time in the confines of a hotel room.

 

Techniques

Iceberg technique – Iceberg theory states that the deeper meaning of a story should shine through implicitly. Like an iceberg, the surface of the story, what is revealed to the reader, should be barely anything compared to what lies beneath. 

Theory of omission - Reporting events while multiple layers of meaning operate beneath. The purpose is to engage the reader in a deeper, more personal and reflective reading of the text.

Sparse language – Sparse language is formal, few, less descriptive and scattered elements.

Notably lack of description.

Third person point of view - The third person point of views allows the author to convey insights and feelings that the woman herself is unable to articulate. In fact, the only times we find a subjective verb being used to describe a character is only in relation to the wife.

Narration is taken place without author’s own feelings - The bare details of the events that take place are narrated without the author’s own feelings and subjective response. However, it is possible that the perspective which is highlighted is that of the American woman. For example, what is privileged is her view of the hotel owner and not that of the husband.

 

Symbolism

The central image is rain. Which is not a favorable setting for tourists. It might project the emotional distress between the husband and the wife. 

Cat – represents desire itself. The wife ‘wants’ the cat depicts her necessity to have a sensual relationship which she seems to lack. Cat is introduced as a female character which draws parallels between the woman’s situation and cat’s situation. Her sight of the cat and when she tries to reach it, it disappearing vividly shows the nature of desire and fulfillment of desire.  

War monument – war monument is an implication of World war I and might suggest the influence of war which is prevalent in the society.

 

Characterization

American Wife: 

Protagonist of the short story whose name is not introduced. Her husband too does not call her by her name. She seems to be less contented with her new marriage and the transient lifestyle she shares with her husband. She seems to suffer from loneliness and sensual fulfilment. The cat the wife finds outside is most likely symbolic of the wife’s desire to have a child. She battles with her internal and external conflict. She desperately tries to get the attention from the husband and she feels suffocated of her loss of freedom, choice and independence. She in a way acts childishly wishing and wanting too many things. she is fundamentally unhappy with the state of her relationship with her husband. There appears to be a lack of intimacy between them. The cat in the rain provides a moment of distraction from the stalemate of their relationship.

George:

George is an unresponsive person; he always takes more interest in his books than his wife. In the end of the story he does not listen to his wife at all. He is a representative character in lost American generation who do not like to settle down nor to have a family and babies. George seems have less idea about her wife emotions nor her feminine nature. He responses ignorantly, irritated manner and rather dominant way.   He is portrayed as a self-absorbed individual who does not want to engage with anyone except at a very superficial level. George seems happy with this life style while the wife clearly wants a change.

Overall, the short story is about the necessity to share emotions to have a better understanding among human being which is obviously disturbed by the social background cracked by the ill effects of warfare.

What hidden information you found in the story, please leave a comment below to enrich this post. Share the post if you find it useful to others.

 

Sources: Resource book provided by NIE

 

 

 

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