Cat in the Rain is a short story by Ernest Hemingway. First published in 1925, the 1,145-word story perfectly exemplifies the iceberg theory style of writing that Hemingway made famous. This writing style is a minimalistic style that focuses on surface-level elements without explicitly unpacking the underlining themes. The deeper meaning of the story isn’t overtly discussed but comes through the text, regardless.
The story starts by establishing an isolated atmosphere.
There were only two Americans stopping at the hotel. They did not know any of the people they passed on the stairs on their way to and from their room.
Hemingway informs us that the two Americans aren’t just alone but they also don’t know anyone else in the hotel. We feel a sense of isolation from the start which is further unpacked by the rain, forcing everyone to stay inside. More isolated than they otherwise would have been.
The motor cars were gone from the square by the war monument. Across the square in the doorway of the cafe a waiter stood looking out of the empty square.
The text then shifts to the wife, and immediately her wants are expressed. She sees a cat stuck out in the rain and she wants the cat. The main conflict of the story comes when the wife’s wants are met with disinterest by the husband. The husband doesn’t even bother to stop reading to address his wife’s wants.
“I’m. going down and get that kitty,” the American wife said.
“I’ll do it,” her husband offered from the bed.
“No, I’ll get it. The poor kitty out trying to keep dry under a table.”
The husband went on reading, lying propped up with the two pillows at the foot of the bed.
Now that the focus of the story has narrowed from saving a cat from the rain to an unsatisfied relationship, Hemingway provides us with further evidence for the latter point. The wife comes across the hotel keeper and notes the man’s dignity and the way he pays attention to her and how he wishes to serve her needs. Three things we assume her husband isn’t doing.
The wife liked him. She liked the deadly serious way he received any complaints. She liked the way he wanted to serve her.
However, the wife’s want isn’t fulfilled. When she goes out to rescue the cat, it’s gone. So instead, the wife whines and for the first time, we see Hemingway refer to her as an ‘American girl’ perhaps suggesting her age. The story narrows in our mind and now we see the couple is young and perhaps the story is turning towards a loss of innocence.
“Yes,” she said, “under the table.” Then, “Oh, I wanted it so much. I wanted a kitty.”
When she talked English the maid’s face tightened.
“Come, Signira,” she said. “We must get back inside. You will be wet.”
“I suppose so”, said the American girl.
Once more, the importance of the hotel keeper is highlighted as she goes back inside.
The padrone made her feel very small and at the same time really important. She had a momentary feeling of being of supreme importance.
When the wife gets back to her room, she expresses her wants again but her husband continues to read, ignoring her requests and even telling her to be quiet.
“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.”
“Oh, shut up and get something to read.,” George said. He was reading again.
However, in the end, one of the wife’s wants is met. The hotel keeper sends her a cat. Here, Hemingway implies that another man can fulfill her wants instead of the husband. The fact that Hemingway hints at the hotel keeper being able to make her feel important we can infer something deeper is happening, underneath the surface of the text. Because the hotel keeper fulfills the wife’s wishes, we can take this as a symbolic gesture as to the hotel keeper fulfilling the wife’s physical or emotional needs. This may hint at an adulterous relationship to come or one that has happened already. Or perhaps, further acknowledging that this relationship between the husband and wife will not last as the wife realizes her dissatisfaction and understands that there are others who can make her happy.