Hemingway's "Cat in the Rain": A Reproof of the Self

Article excerpt

Ernest Hemingway's "Cat in the Rain" is not simply "a sympathetic portrayal of the woman's point of view" (Susan F. Beegal, Hemingway's Neglected Short Fiction [Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1989]: 155). In its symphonic undertones, Expressionistic underpinnings and complex symbols, it suggests a story woven many of many ideas that reveal the theme: one's number one priority to please the self.

It is the woman's words and actions that qualify the idea that "A Cat in the Rain" is "the only story in In Our Time from the woman's viewpoint" (Sheridan W. Baker, Ernest Hemingway: An Introduction and Interpretation [NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967]: 26). In the opening paragraph the woman's vision is as myopic as her husband's; both cannot see beyond themselves. Neither is as sensitive as the "Italians [who] came from a long way off to look up at the war monument ... made of bronze [that] glistened in the rain" (Ernest Hemingway, The Complete Stories of Ernest Hemingway [NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1987]: 129). The Italians' emotional memory of the selfless war dead contrasts sharply with the blase attitude of the two Americans.

Hemingway's second reference to the Americans' concern for self is in the contrast he makes between them and the "Artists [who] liked the way the palms grew and the bright colors of the hotels facing the gardens and the sea" (CS 129). In their inability to recognize the wonders of nature or the creativity of others as artists do, the couple again reveals their insensitivity.

That George the husband is cast in an unfavorable light is beyond question. In his egotism he cannot recognize his spouse as a person; though his cold treatment of her elicits the reader's sympathy, it does not mitigate the idea that her main priority is pleasing herself. Hemingway counters the idea that the story is primarily a "sympathetic portrayal of the woman's point of view" (Beegal 155) by interjecting the Expressionistic element of "repetitive passages [that] are ... as striking as the repeated lines and planes and masses of Cezanne or Picasso or Van Gogh, placed as they are on the canvas with extreme care with the conscious intention of arousing emotion in the viewer" (Raymond S. Nelson, Hemingway: Expressionist Artist [Ames: The Iowa State U P, 1979]: 66). This is obvious when one considers the wife's incessant litany of "I want ... and I want ... and I want ... and I want" (CS 131), which prompts not sympathy for but rather agitation at her un-abashed concern for self. …

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