Spatial Confinement in Hemingway's "Cat in the Rain"

Article excerpt

In "Cat in the Rain," Ernest Hemingway illustrates the emotional estrangement of his characters by manipulating spatial relationships and geometric patterns in the visual imagery of his text. The work revolves around the desire of Hemingway's protagonist, an American wife vacationing in Italy, to rescue a cat from an afternoon rain storm. She fails in her attempt, revealing in the process the emotional distance she feels from her husband and the attendants at the hotel. The story employs a complex of barriers, enclosures, and geometrically defined details to represent the emotional and psychological boundaries that restrict character interaction. These boundaries ultimately evoke a claustrophobic sense of isolation, especially for the American wife. The world of the story is, in fact, one of confinement in which every space operates in opposition to all other spaces and each action is intensified by the degree of restriction placed upon the characters. A close study of the manuscript drafts of the story, however, reveal that isolation and restriction were not key elements in Hemingway's original treatments. A comparison of the manuscript versions with the published story, and a close examination of the final story itself, illustrates that with each revision of the manuscripts Hemingway replaces a buoyant sense of freedom and unity with an atmosphere of entrapment and alienation that serves as a visual paradigm for the emotional isolation of the American wife.

The manuscript drafts provide an explicit map of the evolution of spatial dynamics in "Cat in the Rain." The story develops from a treatment of the happiness of a young married couple to a portrayal of a marriage marked by estrangement. Each revision of the story noticeably reinforces the spatial relationships and barriers that illustrate the unbridgeable distance between characters. Images of physical constraint become progressively more dominant, representing the restrictions placed upon both the characters and nature. And, in the final revisions, small alterations and additions further clarify the centrality of spatial details and their role in characterizing the relationships in the story.

The four-page manuscript fragment, written shortly after Hemingway's trip to Rapallo, Italy, with his wife in early 1923, contains details that prove revealing when compared with the final story. In the fragment, identified by Hemingway's note, "False Start Rapallo Story possible Fascisto Story," the opening paragraph of "Cat in the Rain" appears in an early form as the second paragraph of the fragment, yet it lacks the images of stagnation and barrenness that permeate the final version. This sketch, in fact, concentrates almost exclusively on images of happiness and fertility. The wife in the sketch is happy and excited during the couple's train trip to Rapallo because they are surrounded by luxurious foliage and she can almost reach out and touch the oranges hanging from the trees. The couple kiss in a tunnel and, as they come out, the husband says, "Aren't we happy Kitty?" and she replies, "I'm so happy" ("Cat" ms. 321). In addition to the wife's interesting nickname, this scene contains elements that shed light on "Cat in the Rain," if only by contrast. The sense of openness and freedom in this fragment gives way to the bleak tone and strained relationships of the final version.

Other interesting changes and omissions appear in the 1924 drafts of the story. In the original manuscript entitled "First Draft Original Manuscript / March, 1924 / E. M. H.," the basic conflicts of the final draft are developed, but room is left for significant revision and tightening of the prose. One particularly significant alteration in this text occurs when the wife passes through the lobby on the way back to her room. Originally, as she returns through the lobby, "the padrone {did not see}" the gift; the passage then changes to, "the padrone ... bowed . …