Ernest Hemingway: Cat in the Rain. Summary and analysis

“Cat in the Rain” is a short story by Ernest Hemingway that tells the story of an American couple staying at a hotel in Italy. During a rainy afternoon, the wife is attracted to a cat she sees in the rain from the window of their room. Her interest in the feline leads her to leave her room to help him, a moment that reveals aspects of her relationship with her husband and her own inner dissatisfaction. The story focuses on the wife’s emotional experience and how a small everyday event can reflect deeper desires and conflicts.

Ernest Hemingway - Gato bajo la lluvia. Resumen y análisis - Imagen 1

Summary of “Cat in the Rain” by Ernest Hemingway

“Cat in the Rain” is a short story by Ernest Hemingway published in the collection In Our Time (1925). The story is set in a hotel located on the coast of Italy and focuses on an American couple, particularly the wife, whose name is never said.

One rainy day the wife observes from the window of her room a cat lying under a table in the garden, trying to protect itself from the downpour. The woman expresses her desire to go out and rescue it, showing a sensitivity and compassion that contrasts with the indifference of her husband, George. The man, while offering help, does nothing to materialize it and continues to read in bed, unmoved by his wife’s yearnings and the feline’s misfortunes.

When the wife comes downstairs, the hotel owner shows courtesy and attention to her, in stark contrast to her husband’s distant attitude. When she arrives in the garden, she discovers that the cat has disappeared, causing her deep disappointment. This incident serves as a catalyst for further reflection on her desires and dissatisfaction. Back in the bedroom, the woman initiates a dialogue with her husband where she expresses her desire to change her appearance and various aspects of her environment, among these, she expresses her desire to have a cat. Her husband, while appearing to listen to her, does not take his attention away from his reading to which he constantly returns.

The story culminates with the arrival of a hotel worker, sent by the owner, who gives her a cat, symbolically fulfilling the protagonist’s wish to have a feline. This gesture of kindness received from strangers contrasts sharply with the indifference of George, who at all times seems insensitive to his wife’s desires and emotional needs.

Main characters in “Cat in the Rain”

The Wife: The protagonist of the story is a young, married woman whose name is never revealed. This detail, in itself, is significant, suggesting a possible loss of identity within her marriage. She is the driving force of the narrative, driven by her desire to save the cat from the rain, an act that symbolizes deeper longings and the need for care and affection. Her expressions of desire for objects and changes in her life reveal a deep dissatisfaction and a longing for something more than the mundanity of her current existence. The wife is sensitive, perceptive and evidently longs for more attention and emotional connection than her current relationship offers her.

George: George, the husband, is portrayed as indifferent and detached. His character is defined more by his inaction than his actions. He prefers to remain in bed reading, showing little interest in his wife’s concerns or desires. This attitude reflects an emotional disconnect in his marriage. George’s apathy is crucial to understanding the wife’s emotional background and her search for affection and attention elsewhere.

The hotel owner: Although a secondary character, the hotel owner plays a significant role. He is courteous and attentive to the wife, showing a level of respect and consideration that she does not receive from her husband. This difference in treatment further highlights the disconnect in the couple’s relationship. The owner represents what the wife longs for: to be valued and cared for.

The hotel worker: Another secondary character. She acts as a link between the wife and the hotel owner’s kindness and concern. At the latter’s request, she first covers the protagonist with an umbrella, to protect her from the rain, and then brings her a cat to the room, to satisfy her desire to have an animal of this species. Although his role is small, he is instrumental in showing the kindness and attention the wife seeks.

Scenario in which the story takes place

Geographical and temporal setting: The location in a hotel in Italy provides an exotic and uprooted feel. The American couple are outside their usual environment, which may accentuate their sense of isolation and alienation. The fact that they are in a tourist location, but confined to their room due to rain, creates a contrast between the potential for exploration and adventure and their current reality, marked by monotony and discontent.

Rain: The weather plays a crucial role in the story. The constant rain creates a gloomy and melancholic atmosphere, reflecting the emotional state of the protagonist. The rain is symbolic of her isolation and sadness, and her desire to rescue the cat in the rain can be interpreted as an attempt to seek solace and purpose in the midst of her own emotional dissatisfaction. In addition, the rain forces the characters to remain indoors, which intensifies their interaction and focus on their emotions and relationships.

The hotel: The hotel is a transitional space, a temporary place that is not home. This reinforces the sense of detachment and lack of belonging that the wife experiences. The interaction with the hotel staff, particularly the courtesy of the owner contrasts with her husband’s indifference and highlights her need for attention and recognition.

Themes Hemingway addresses in “Cat in the Rain”.

Isolation and alienation: one of the most prominent themes is emotional and physical isolation. The protagonist feels disconnected from her surroundings, including her husband. This isolation is accentuated by being in a foreign country and by the language barrier, but more profoundly by the lack of understanding and emotional connection in her marriage.

The search for identity and purpose: The wife, through her desire to care for the cat, manifests a deeper longing for purpose and self-affirmation. At a time when women were beginning to question and redefine their social roles, this desire can be interpreted as a search for identity and autonomy beyond her role as a wife.

Dissatisfaction and desire: The wife’s dissatisfaction is a central theme that manifests itself in her desires to change her appearance and possess personal objects. These desires symbolize her more general dissatisfaction with her life and marriage. The story explores how these unfulfilled longings affect her psychology and behavior.

Communication in relationships: The story highlights the importance of communication in relationships. The interaction between the protagonist and her husband is limited and superficial, underscoring the emotional disconnect between them. The lack of meaningful dialogue and mutual understanding is a critical element that contributes to the wife’s sense of isolation.

The symbolism of the cat: The cat in the rain functions as a powerful symbol in the story. It represents not only the wife’s desire to care and be cared for, but also her longing for something more in her life, something that gives her meaning and fulfillment.

Ernest Hemingway: Cat in the Rain. Summary and analysis

Narrative point of view: Who narrates the story in “Cat in the Rain”?

The story is narrated in the third person, using a limited omniscient narrator. This narrative approach is essential to understanding how the story is perceived and experienced by the reader.

Limited omniscient narrator: The narrator in “Cat in the Rain” knows the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist, the American wife. However, this knowledge is limited to her, as the inner thoughts and motivations of other characters, such as George, the hotel owner or the female worker, are not directly revealed. This limitation allows for a deep dive into the psychology of the protagonist, focusing the reader’s attention on her inner experience.

Impact on the reader’s perception: By being limited to the wife’s perspective, the reader is immersed in her emotional world, sharing her sense of isolation, desire and frustration. This point of view creates an intimate connection between the reader and the protagonist, allowing for a deeper understanding of her longings and the dynamics of her marriage.

Objectivity and subjectivity: Despite its limited nature, the narrator maintains an objective tone, describing situations and dialogues without making explicit judgments. This allows the reader to form his or her own opinions about the characters and the situation. Subjectivity is subtly introduced through the focus on the wife’s perspective, coloring the narrative with her perception of the world around her.

Contrast and understanding: By not having access to the thoughts of other characters, the reader experiences the same type of communicative isolation faced by the wife. This technique increases the reader’s empathy for her and highlights the emotional disconnect in her relationship with George.

Implications of point of view: Hemingway’s choice of a limited omniscient narrator not only serves to emphasize the protagonist’s internal experience, but also reinforces the themes of isolation and lack of communication. The reader, like the wife, is in a state of quest, trying to understand the actions and motivations of the other characters through their interactions and dialogue.

Writing techniques employed by Hemingway in the short story

Economy and precision of language: Hemingway is known for his laconic and direct style. In this story, each word seems carefully chosen for maximum effect with the minimum of sentences. This economy of language creates a narrative that is both dense in meaning and emotionally meaningful, without being overly descriptive.

Realistic Dialogue: The dialogue in “Cat in the Rain” is remarkable for its naturalness and realism. Hemingway succeeds in capturing the essence of human communication: often what is not said is as important as what is said. This technique contributes to the depiction of the emotional disconnect between the characters, especially between the wife and George.

Symbolism: The cat in the rain acts as a powerful symbol in the story. It represents the protagonist’s unfulfilled desires and search for care and affection. This symbolism is subtle but deeply significant, and is central to the interpretation and emotional impact of the story.

Detailed and concrete description: Although Hemingway uses few words, his descriptions are vivid and concrete. For example, the description of the rainy landscape and the scene of the cat in the rain are brief but evocative, creating a mood that reflects the emotional state of the protagonist.

Use of repetition: Hemingway employs repetition to emphasize certain elements, such as the wife’s desires. This repetition not only underscores the importance of these desires to the protagonist, but also reflects her persistent sense of dissatisfaction.

Minimalist narrative: Hemingway’s minimalist technique is evident in his “show, don’t tell” approach. Rather than explicitly explaining the emotions or thoughts of the characters, he reveals them through his actions and dialogue, allowing the reader to infer their internal states.

Use of contrast: Hemingway uses contrasts, such as between the hotel owner’s attitude and George’s, to highlight the differences in how the protagonist is treated and perceived, which in turn emphasizes her sense of isolation and her desire for attention and understanding.

Historical and Cultural Context

“Cat in the Rain” by Ernest Hemingway was written and published in the 1920s, a period that represents a significant historical and cultural context for understanding various aspects of history.

Postwar and the Lost Generation: The 1920s were marked by the aftermath of World War I. Hemingway himself was part of the “Lost Generation,” a term coined by Gertrude Stein to describe those young people who had been deeply affected by the war. This context of disillusionment and questioning of traditional values is reflected in the sense of disorientation and search for meaning in Hemingway’s characters.

Changes in gender roles: The interwar period was a time of significant change in gender roles, particularly for women. The struggle for women’s suffrage and the increased independence achieved during the war led to a rethinking of women’s traditional roles. In “Cat in the Rain,” the female protagonist displays a desire for autonomy and self-expression, reflecting these cultural changes. Her dissatisfaction and longings can be seen as an echo of women’s growing awareness of their own potential and desires beyond home and marriage.

American exile and fascination with Europe: During the 1920s, many American writers and artists were drawn to Europe, particularly Paris and other cultural centers. Hemingway was part of this exodus and spent much time during this period in the old continent. The story’s setting in Italy reflects this fascination with Europe and the desire to escape traditional American norms. The experience of being a foreigner and the sense of displacement are recurring themes in Hemingway’s work and are present in this story.

The literary style of the period: In terms of style, Hemingway’s work is emblematic of modernism, characterized by experimentation with narrative forms, a focus on internal psychology, and a break with traditional literary conventions. Hemingway’s economical writing and “iceberg” technique, where most of the meaning lies beneath the surface, are representative of this movement.

Ernest Hemingway - Gato bajo la lluvia. Resumen y análisis - Imagen 3

Conclusions

Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Cat in the Rain” is a work that, despite its brevity, manages to encapsulate a range of emotions and universal themes with a subtlety and depth that is characteristic of the author. The story, set in a post-war context, becomes an introspective exploration of desire, dissatisfaction and isolation in human relationships, themes that Hemingway handles with his well-known laconic and precise style.

The story’s effectiveness lies in its ability to use narrative minimalism so that every element-from the setting to the choice of characters-serves a larger purpose. Hemingway employs the iceberg technique, where most of the meaning lies beneath the surface of what is explicitly told. This technique invites readers to dig deeper into the story, discovering layers of meaning in seemingly trivial details, such as the protagonist’s desire to rescue a cat in the rain.

The character of the wife is particularly emblematic, reflecting internal struggles of identity and purpose that were especially pertinent to women in the 1920s, but remain relevant today. Her relationship with George, marked by a lack of communication and understanding, is a powerful representation of how emotional isolation can manifest itself in everyday interactions.

The story “Cat in the Rain” is ideal for readers who appreciate literary narrative that focuses more on character psychology and the exploration of internal themes than on external action. Those interested in literary modernism, or in the study of human relationships and gender dynamics, will find this story an enriching and provocative read. It is also an excellent introduction to Hemingway’s style for those unfamiliar with his work, offering a glimpse into his ability to convey emotional and thematic depth through a seemingly straightforward narrative. “Cat in the Rain” is a work that challenges the reader to look beyond the obvious, finding in its brevity a richness that invites continued reflection and analysis.

Ernest Hemingway: Cat in the Rain. Summary and analysis
  • Author: Ernest Hemingway
  • Title: Cat in the Rain
  • Published in: In Our Time (1925)
Compartir:

Leave a Comment