The cat in the rain is a fictional story by Ernest Hemmingway. It was written in the 1920s at a time when Hemmingway’s marriage was falling apart. He however retaliates in a letter written to Scott Fitzgerald claiming that the story had nothing to do with his shaky marriage. Hemingway is a professional author and reporter. He wrote about experiences that tested a man’s spirit. Hemmingway as a writer is obsessed with violence, death, and masculinity. He once served as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross in World War 1, was a Spanish civil war reporter in World War II, has been a fisherman and a frequent tourist in Africa. In his life, he married four times. He often fell in love with a woman while still married to another. Hemmingway’s life philosophy was that people are lonely, isolated, and cannot establish genuinely happy relationships. Just like his father, he suffered depression and shot himself (Griffin 18).
The story is about an American couple who are spending their holiday in an Italian hotel. The story begins with a description of a good warm environment probably in spring or summer then goes on to describe a rainy situation. The rainy situation creates an ambiance of sadness, unfriendly and coldness. Hemmingway describes the feeling as empty and a war like situation. It is not clear why Hemmingway wrote this story but it must have been inspired by his own experiences. The story works through the conscious of the American wife as she spies on a stray cat huddled in the cold outside. The woman spots a cat in the rain and contemplates on rescuing it (Griffin 29). Ironically, the husband is busy reading on a rainy day and seems not aware of what is going on in the mind of the wife. He unwillingly offers to get it but the wife declines the offer. She is a victim of marital neglect as George is controlling and ambitious. The couple is seemingly in a romantic vacation but there are no signs of love and romance.
When the wife goes out to get the cat, she does not find it. She goes back in and expresses to her husband her deep need for having a cat. The husband is distracted and annoyed by the woman’s plea and does not seem interested. It seems that the woman was lonely. This is seen by her need to protect and hold the cat. The husband does not seem to realize her needs. As one reads through the story, you cannot help but feel very sympathetic to the American woman. Not much is said about the woman’s character traits. However, one gathers that she is unsatisfied with her marriage and enjoys the company and flattery of the innkeeper.
The innkeeper made her feel appreciated and very important. He cares for her and brings the child in her and the women in her characters out beautifully. Adults know that rain does no harm to animals but just like a child, she wants to protect it. The author speaks of her as a girl not a woman when she expresses her desire to rescue the kitty. At one point, she behaves like a small girl and at the other, she displays needs of a grown up woman. She loves the way the hotelier serves her as it makes her feel like an adult and a child (innocent) at the same time. He also liked him for his old face and big hands. He balances both the desires of the woman and that is why she enjoys his company (Benson 23).
Rescuing the cat shows how deep the woman wished to be rescued. It is not clear from what. However, it is like she has a deep desire for a person older than her, maybe a father or uncle to show her love. She expresses this with the cat. The author may be showing us that an important character missed in the growing up part of the woman. Maybe as a result of abandonment or war. It could be that Hemmingway is placing himself in the vulnerable position of the woman and feels trapped and not in control. He had married four times, he must have done something wrong, and his conscience was speaking. Through the woman, he longs to give what he did not get and also get what she can. Maybe, the author is getting an insight into his wife’s life and character and wishing that he could love her better if he had another chance. Maybe it was a reflection of his personal life and a deep desire for turning a new leaf in life.
He was putting himself in the shoes of married couples and expressing their entrapment and loneliness in marriages. Married couples in a romantic trip should have been cuddling in the rain, having sex, taking coffee but not reading and worrying about a stray cat as we see in the man and woman respectively. The story is symbolic of the couple’s experiences. Literally, there could be conflicts and sadness covering the land but the couple’s relationship seems to be in the gloomy days. The husband is really being patient with the wife but he does not even want to talk. He enjoys the reading more than his wife’s company does. The writer probably tries to show us the true state of marriages and how much the sun has set in them
When the woman realized that the cat is gone, her husband George is not interested. He is a grown man. He does not understand the needs of the woman. She seems to have a deep desire to redefine herself. She wants to live again, be happy, she wants it to spring again. She wants her relationship to regain its spark once again. She wants to be loved and taken care of. At the end of the story, she gets a cat. The author could be having illusions that things will get better in his own life and his wishes will come true. Maybe it is a baby she really needed, but at least finally, she gets something to be responsible for. It is not clear if the cat she had spotted is the same one that was brought to her by the house cleaner or the inn-keeper offered to buy for her a new one.