Study Guide

Cat in the Rain Quotes

  • Gender

    The wife went downstairs and the hotel owner stood up and bowed to her as she passed the office. (8)

    Talk about a breath of fresh air. After the husband's indifference towards his wife, the padrone's kind, attentive attitude towards her is startling. The bow is almost chivalric in comparison, like a knight in shining armor addressing a lady. To the padrone, she is a lady and he is sure to make her feel like one.

    She liked his big heavy face and big hands. (9)

    The American wife's response to the padrone is so basic that it almost sounds childlike. There's no explanation as to why she likes these things, she just does. It could be that she associates his big heaviness with masculinity. The logic is a little complicated, but think of it this way—she doesn't just like these things about him, she likes liking these things. She is enjoying her own feminine (and gendered) response.

    As the American girl passed the office, the padrone bowed from his desk. Something felt very small and tight inside the girl. (24)

    As we've already discussed, this is a moment where the wife is having a very physical response to the padrone—but did you notice? It's not because he's tremendously handsome or even comes onto her in any way. She's responding to his gentlemanly gesture—a bow. It's so well-mannered, respectful, and formal…Why should these things give her a physical thrill?

    George looked up and saw the back of her neck, clipped close like a boy's. (33)

    Shifting over to George's point of view here, Hemingway tells us pretty directly how George sees his wife—as boyish. He isn't looking at her face, which presumably isn't boyish; instead, he's looking straight at the part of her that isn't feminine and he seems to approve of it. Why?

    "I get so tired of it," she said. "I get so tired of looking like a boy." (35)

    Think about the specific words here. The wife simply states that she gets "so tired of looking like a boy." It's specifically appearing boyish that she gets tired of, and interesting to think about why. Might it affect the way others treat her? Does it make her identify herself in a less feminine way? There are a lot of different ways to interpret this.

    "I want to pull my hair back tight and smooth and make a big knot at the back that I can feel," she said. (39).

    You always want what you don't have. Again, there's no explicit reason given by the woman as to why she wants this—it's just the complete opposite of her short hair, which gives her nothing to hold or hold onto. Also, there's an adjective here that should buzz a little for you. That's right: "tight." Where else does it come up in this short, short story? How do those others instances influence its meaning here?

    "I want to have a kitty to sit on my lap and purr when I stroke her." (39)

    Dream all you want, lady…but why does the cat have to be a "her"? Why does this pronoun slip into the statement?

    "And I want to eat at a table with my own silver and I want candles." (41)

    These items are the most materialistic of the wife's cravings, but they're also really suggestive of deeper desires . The table, silver and candles are all part of a domestic scene, and wanting them to be her "own" (as opposed to hotel silver) conveys her desire for a home of her own—a place where she presides. The domestic realm, and particularly the setting of a dinner table, is one of the most stereotypically feminine spaces you can imagine. Very subtle, Mr. Hemingway

    "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." (41).

    Notice the way she's starting to loop back on herself? Didn't we already talk about the hair? In a way, you can get a sense of Hemingway's prejudice against women here. All of what she's just expressed comes down to wanting some new clothes. Do you think this is fair of him, as the author? Do you really think this is the core of what a woman wants? Newness and pretty things? Or maybe Mr. Hemingway didn't quite understand women as well as he thought he did…

    "Excuse me," she said, "the padrone asked me to bring this for the Signora." (49)

    Notice the word at the end of this sentence, which is also the last word of the story: "Signora." A "Signora" is what the American woman desires to be: someone with the power of feminine traditions, someone with a home, who presides, and who is loved. A "Signora" is precisely what the padrone makes this woman feel like—not a simple "American wife"

  • Foreignness and The Other

    There were only two Americans stopping at the hotel. (1)

    This is the first sentence of the story and it immediately tells us three things: 1) the story is set in a foreign country 2) it involves people in transit and 3) those people are the "others" in this setting. See, we told you Hemingway was a super efficient writer.

    They did not know any of the people they passed on the stairs on their way to and from their room. (1)

    This second sentence reaffirms the couple's foreignness in this place, but also tells us something about their attitude and bearing. They are not people who make friends easily; they are, and feel themselves to be, apart. Sounds kind of lonely, if you ask us.

    Italians came from a long way off to look up at the war monument. (1)

    With this, Hemingway lets us know that we're Italy, but he also does something more. The fact that the people come from far away to simply look at this war monument conveys a sense of national cohesion. The country experienced World War I collectively, as a nation, and it continues to draw them together. Compare that to the distance we feel between the husband and wife, and their

    The American wife stood at the window looking out. (2)

    "The American wife" pretty much functions as the woman's name in this story, but it's worthwhile asking yourself why Hemingway makes this choice? Why does he so insist on reminding us that she is American? You'd think she was Voldemort (He-who-must-not-be-named) or something by the way Hemingway avoids giving her a name.

    "Si, si, Signora, brutto tempo. It's very bad weather." (10)

    The padrone repeats his Italian phrase in English here, but it's interesting to see that he does this specifically in response to the Signora's attempt at Italian. He is acknowledging that she tried, but also making sure that they are really communicating. A real gentleman, isn't he?

    When she talked English the maid's face tightened. (21)

    Here is a characteristically Hemingway description for you. He doesn't say that speaking English makes the maid uncomfortable, or that she doesn't understand it, or even that she grimaces or frowns. Her face simply "tightens." What do you imagine that looks like? Is it even a categorizable facial expression? Why does Hemingway leave it so open to interpretation? And why (it has to be asked) does that word "tight" appear here again, in this context?

  • Dissatisfaction

    The American wife stood at the window looking out. (2)

    This is the first image we are given of the American wife and—surprise—she seems kind of bored and restless.

    "Oh, I wanted it so much. I wanted a kitty." (20)

    After deciding that rescuing the cat might make her feel better, the wife is understandably disappointed when she goes downstairs and it's not where she'd seen it. This is a great moment to think about Hemingway's narrative choices: why does he choose to draw out the wife's dissatisfaction in this way? Also…did this woman really think she could just take this wet, stray cat home to the states with her?

    "I wanted it so much," she said. "I don't know why I wanted it so much. I wanted that poor kitty." (29)

    The wife's desire to "save" the cat from the rain begins to morph into a sense of "want." She repeats the word three times, which may be due to the fact that she doesn't know why she wants it. The desire to have, to possess, to literally hold that cat is the catalyst to all the desires that follow. Why do you think this is? What is it about that feeling of holding the cat and owning it that appeals to her? What does it have in common with the other things she wants?

    "It isn't any fun to be a poor kitty out in the rain." (29)

    Sure, it's kind of a silly statement. Does anyone need to be told that cats don't love torrential downpours? Not really. This kind of remark, however, does tell us that the wife sympathizes with the cat—maybe she sees a bit of herself reflected in the poor, wet kitty.

    She studied her profile, first one side and then the other. (31)

    After examining herself in front of the mirror, the wife's verdict is ultimately disapproving. It's interesting that her appearance becomes a factor in her dissatisfaction. Clearly, the boredom or satisfaction of her life rests on more than her profile and hairstyle—looks are definitely not everything. So why does she attach her sense of satisfaction to these things here? Why does she express her discontentment this way?

    "I get so tired of it," she said. "I get so tired of looking like a boy." (35)

    This statement helps narrow down where the wife's dissatisfaction lies. It's not herself she's tired of or upset with; it's her appearance. You get the sense that there is something draining about this boyish appearance—like it's something she has to keep up, and something that's, to use her words, not very "fun."

    "Oh, shut up and get something to read," George said. (42)

    Poor George. You get the feeling that he would be perfectly fine if it weren't for all this complaining from his wife. Let's think more specifically about why he's irked by this list of "wants" she gives: he can't really do anything to remedy all her dissatisfactions. They're material and have a lot to do with property and stability—things George might not be in a position to secure. It's like an indirect way for the wife to tell George he's just not cutting it for her.

    He was reading again. His wife was looking out the window. (42-43)

    This is an awesome example of how careful Hemingway is with his grammar. "Was reading" and "was looking" are both examples of past participle verbs—they indicate an ongoing past action. Why is this significant? Well, notice how you get the husband's past participle action and the wife's right after. There's a sense that the actions (reading and looking) are kind of ongoing and continuous. You get the feeling that the husband and wife weren't really paying attention to what the other just said. Everything has settled right back to where they started.

    George was not listening. He was reading his book. (45)

    This book George is reading must have been a real page-turner. This small description is amazing because it gives 1) the omniscient description of what's happening 2) a hint that the wife's acknowledging that her husband isn't listening and 3) a suggestion that George himself is making a conscious effort to not listen to what his wife has to say. With this three-way perspective that Hemingway gives, it's hard not to feel that this sort of inattentiveness has happened in other "discussions" before.

  • Isolation

    There were only two Americans stopping at the hotel. (1)

    "Only" is a pretty lonely word. It relates a feeling of solitude and seclusion, and it just so happens to be the third word in this story. Right off the bat, we get a sense of the isolation surrounding this unhappy couple.

    Outside right under their window a cat was crouched under one of the dripping green tables. (2)

    What a pitiful, pitiful image. Whether you like cats or not, it's a little hard not to feel bad for this little one. This scene is crucial to the story because it becomes the image into which all the wife's feelings of isolation are centered. It all boils down to this little image of the isolated, drippy cat. Poor thing—we definitely want to rescue it too.

    When she talked English the maid's face tightened. (21)

    This sentence is a great example of the isolating effect of language. While the wife is the most blatantly isolated character in the story, the maid's inability to join in the wife's conversation is equally potent. Parli Italiano?

    She had a momentary feeling of being of supreme importance. (24)

    Sometimes "isolation" can be a good thing—as it is here. After being on the receiving end of the padrone's bow and sign of respect, the wife is given the feeling of being someone singular, someone worthy of a gesture. In this part, the lonely isolation she felt before is inverted from a negative force to something much more uplifting.

    George was reading again. (30)

    George's unbreakable focus on his book is one of the strongest forces of isolation in the story. The wife seems to know she's excluded from his attention, so it's almost as if she's talking to herself throughout the story. How unaware do you think George actually is of his wife? And to what extent might she want to be isolated from him?

    "I want to have a kitty to sit on my lap and purr when I stroke her." (39)

    Is it at all strange to you that the wife's fantasy is filled with only herself, things, and the cat? Notice that there are no other people present in her fantasyland. The bond that she imagines with the cat is touching indeed, but it makes us wonder—to what extent do other people cause us to feel more isolated rather than cure it?