truth and fiction taking turns, one imitating the other.

Book Review of Hemingway's "Cat In The Rain"

"Cat In The Rain" is a story about a wife on the brink of a breakdown. The first line of the story, "There were only two Americans stopping at the hotel." illustrates this couple’s foreign identities. "They did not know any of the people they passed on the stairs on their way to and from their room. " which means "the wife" was actually insulated here.

Their exotic status was repetitively highlighted by being referred to as "the American wife" and "the husband" in the former part of the narration. The setting of the scene, delineated in the opening part, elaborates on the social milieu they were in. "Their room was on the second floor facing the sea. It also faced the public garden and the war monument."

A rain emptied visitors to the war monument, "Across the square, in the doorway of the café a waiter stood looking out at the empty square."

It was in this emptiness that "the American wife stood at the window looking out." She didn’t look at the sea nor the public garden, let alone the war monument.

She found a cat "right under their window". She wanted to "get" the cat. Yet, before she reached the outside of the window, the cat had gone. "She was suddenly disappointed." She told the maid who escorted her that, "Oh, I wanted it so much. I wanted a kitty." It’s not that she wanted to "save" the cat from the rain, but she "want" a cat. Besides, what she actually said was she want "a" cat, not "the" cat, which shed light on her internal eagerness for something to comfort her.

The maid, a local there, sent by the hotel-keeper to accompany the wife, first asked her in Italian: "Ha perduto qualche cosa, Signora?" which was answered by "the wife" in English, "There was a cat." In the convenience of "the wife," the maid switches to English by asking, "A cat?" Then, with the same consideration, "the wife" replied in Italian, "Si, il gatto." After a series of interactions, they both began to speak in English. Hemingway wrote, "When she (the wife) talked English the maid’s face tightened."

The switching of languages back and forth, in addition to the tightening of the maid’s face, indicates that the maid had realized the wife was a foreigner here, and so was solitary and desperate. That’s why she could understand the wife’s need for a cat and must have reported this to the hotel-keeper, because at the end of the story, the hotel-keeper sent the maid to bring a cat to the wife.

Interestingly, in the wife's conversation with the maid, she was referred to as "American girl," implying that from the maid's perspective, she was no longer a madam or a wife, but simply a helpless American girl.

There are some worthwhile subtleties with regard to the portrayal of the padrone of the hotel before and after "the wife" goes in search for a cat that are of note.

When the wife went downstairs, it was her first encounter with the owner of the hotel, who was then referred to as the "hotel-keeper" or "the hotel owner". "The hotel owner stood up and bowed to her as she passed the office." Then there's a whole paragraph of expression to underpin her like for the hotelkeeper, which includes six "likes. "He stood behind his desk in the far end of the dim room. The wife liked him. She liked the deadly serious way he received any complaints. She liked his dignity. She liked the way he wanted to serve her. She liked the way he felt about being a hotel-keeper. She liked his old, heavy face and big hands."

Her sudden liking of a stranger was in stark contrast to her indifferent relationship with her husband, suggesting a downright disappointment. As she went out, the hotel-keeper sent her a maid with an umbrella. The maid said, "You must not get wet." which the wife’s husband had also told her hypocritically before her leaving. The maid’s words  must have moved her and enhanced her eagerness to be taken care of and be paid attention to.

When she went back to the hotel, "the Padrone bowed from his desk. Something felt very small and tight inside the girl. The padrone made her feel very small and at the same time really important. She had a momentary feeling of being of supreme importance." The wife, who now was regarded as "a girl", just like the cat crouched compactly in the rain, was fragile and helpless, yearning to be cared for. At this point, the hotel-keeper was referred to as "padrone," an Italian appellation of "hotel-keeper." This implys that the wife appreciates how well the Italians take care of her.

When she came back to the hotel room, her husband was still reading just as she left. After a few perfunctory questions and answers, she went into the first fit of hysteria by repetitively mumbling, "I wanted it so much," "I don’t know why I wanted it so much. I wanted that poor kitty. It isn’t any fun to be a poor kitty out in the rain. "

Taking no notice of this, "George was reading again." After her return, Hemingway no longer uses any indicative denomination to indicate their marital relationship. She, no longer attached to her husband as a wife, was regarded as an individual in the latter part of the story.

"She went over and sat in front of the mirror of the dressing table looking at herself with the hand glass. " After studying of her profile, she asked "Don’t you think it would be a good idea if I let my hair grow out?"

George, who had never moved his eyes from the book, now seemed to be challenged by this, looked up and saw the back of her neck, clipped close like a boy’s. He asserted, "I like it the way it is." of what she refuted, "I get so tired of it," "I get so tired of looking like a boy."

Though ignored by George again, she continued babbling on:

"I want to pull my hair back tight and smooth and make a big knot at the back that I can feel," she said. "I want to have a kitty to sit on my lap and purr when I stroke her."

"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."

Being fed up with her verbosity, he rebuffed her angrily by saying, "Oh, shut up and get something to read. "

Here came the second fit of her hysteria, in which she was actually on the verge of collapse. "Anyway, I want a cat," she said, "I want a cat. I want a cat now. If I can’t have long hair or any fun, I can have a cat."

At this critical juncture, the maid brought "a large tortoise-shell cat" at Padrone's request, which temporarily placated her.

From here, the story goes to an end. Like "the light had come on in the square," Hemingway leaves a stroke of warm color in this cruel painting.


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