“Cat in the rain” by E. Hemingway
(the text analysis)
E. Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His distinctive writing style, characterized by economy and understatement, influenced the 20th-century fiction. He produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Hemingway's fiction was successful because the characters he presented exhibited authenticity that resonated with his audience.
The text under consideration - Cat in the Rain - is one of his most popular stories. The story takes place after the First World War. It is about an American couple that spends their holidays in an Italian hotel. It is a rainy day and the American woman sees a cat in the rain and wants to get it, but it is gone. The American wife likes the hotel keeper for he takes care of her. She tells her husband George that she wants to have a cat. Her words irritate him because he is engrossed in reading. At the end of the story there is a knock on the door and the maid stands there holding a cat in her hands. But the American woman doesn`t want this cat. The theme of loneliness permeates this story as a whole: “It isn`t any fun to be a poor kitty out in the rain”. Through this statement of the main character the author is suggesting that it is important for every human being to have home and family.
Repetition is one of the most widely used and favourite stylistic devices of Hemingway. The word rain is repeated a lot of times in the story. The author`s aim is to evoke the mood of sadness in the reader. To bring home this air of melancholy which is felt when it is raining, the author uses such stylistic device as parallel constructions: "The rain dripped from the palm trees. The water stood in pools on the gravel paths. The sea broke in a long line in the rain and slipped back down the beach to come up and break again in a long line in the rain ". We can notice that the nouns rain, pools, sea belong to one sphere - the water. This stylistic device is employed by the author to create the atmosphere of inevitability. People cannot hide from the rain. Water is everywhere: it is on the ground, it is pouring from the heavens as though nature cries for something. Here the author uses alliteration of sounds [r] "Rain dripped from the palm trees, the sea broke in a long line in the rain", it brings the rhythm to the description of the weather. Through the repetition of the nouns rain, a war monument and an empty square the author conveys a depressing atmosphere after the World War I and its consequences. To add local coloring and emphasize the fact that the American couple are strangers, the author inserts Italian words and sentences into the text.
Emphasizing the American`s wife attitude to the hotel-keeper the author resorts to repetition: "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 ". Unconsciously comparing him with her indifferent husband she liked him because he displayed a kind of attention to her. He always bowed seeing her. His attention can be explained by the fact that he was the owner of the hotel and it was his duty to take care of his clients, but it was so pleasant for the American wife to feel care: «The pardons made her feel very small and at the same time really important. She had a momentary feeling of being of supreme importance". That is why she liked him. He made her feel important. He listened to her every word and request, and she knew that her every little whim would be fulfilled, which cannot be said about her husband who had never worried about her feelings.
Through her sad monologue and a frame structure of the story Hemingway shows the protagonist’s dissatisfaction with life, beginning with the absence of the cat and ending with her short clipped hair. "I get so tired of it“- she says about her hair, but it is not just looking like a boy that she is tired of. She is tired of a boring life, of her indifferent and selfish husband who remains deaf to her despair. She does not say directly that she is not satisfied with her family life. But the reader can see it in the context. She says: "I want to pull my hair back tight and smooth and make a big knot at the back that I feel. I want to have a kitty to sit on my lap and purr when I stroke her". She wants to have long hair to look solid and respectable. She wants to have children and her own house which she associates with silver and candles. And the cat in her dreams is a symbol of refuge, something that she corresponds with such notions as home and comfort. The title of the story anticipates the fact that the cat’s image makes great play twice – just increases the total effect. In fact, the young woman pines for love, for home, for her family. She wants warmth, attention, care, joy, happiness; however she is brought a cat – a pitiful substitution for what she, a young beautiful woman, needs greatly. The author underlines the idea of dissatisfaction using repetition. In importunate repetition of the construction "I want" the reader can see the girl's emotional state. This stylistic device discloses her excitement. The emotional tension increases. "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 up my hair out in front of the mirror and I want the kitty and I want some new clothes ". Here is a cluster of stylistic devices such as polysyndeton, parallel constructions and repetitions. The abundant use of the conjunction ‘and’ makes the members of enumeration more conspicuous and also serves to emphasize the girl's state of confusion. The syntax also contributes to the effect of extreme agitation of the girl. The writer deliberately avoids the use of commas in the girl's speech to show her uninterrupted flow of speech which testifies to her emotional excitement. This abstract may be regarded as the climax of the story. Here the emotional tension reaches its highest degree. The girl throws out all her discontent, all her negative emotions which she has accumulated during her unhappy life with her husband. Then comes a trivial and hopeless resolution to the climax: "Oh, shut up and get something to read", says her husband.
With the help of an importunate repetition of the word ‘reading’ Hemingway hints at the fact that indifference is a key word to her husband`s personality. He is constantly reading because he has nothing to do and it helps him to escape the reality. It is obvious that after the war it was hard for people to find a proper job and to settle down. The reader infers that Hemingway drives home the theme that any war is the greatest evil, which ruins people`s lives. The images of rain, a war monument, and an empty square symbolize the war and loneliness. Through the image of a cat Hemingway is suggesting that, on the one hand, the American wife, like a cat in the rain, needs love and care and, on the other hand, a cat serves as a symbol of home, which the American wife strives for. Such images as silverware and candles symbolize a romantic atmosphere.
Thus, the author universalizes the characters and their situations. He conveys the idea that not to be lonely people should work at their relationships and take all possible means to avoid war. The story relates to everyone`s life: if people are aware of their problems, they might be able to save their marriage, but if they do not realize that their relationship is becoming more and more depressing, like in this short story, winter time will come and their love will die.