Cat in the Rain is one of Hemingway’s most famous short stories, depicting an American couple spends their holiday in an Italian hotel. The American wife in the story sees a cat crouched under a table in the rain and wants to bring it to her room. When she goes to search for the cat, however, it is gone. So she returns to the hotel room and has a conversation with her husband about finding out the cat and then about changing her whole life.
Her husband, however, seems to be terribly annoyed by her and not interested at all. Eventually, the cat is delivered to her room by a maid at the request of the hotelkeeper.
These images altogether make it easy to consider the story as an episode of marriage crisis. However, I want to argue that Hemingway conveyed in the story has much to do with the feminist consciousness. We can feel depression and isolation of the American wife from the very beginning of the story.
She is in a hotel of a foreign country where they are the only Americans, having to speak an unfamiliar language, with nobody else known but her husband who turns out to be indifferent to her. Her depression mainly comes from him who neglects her needs and feelings.
Thus, she is eager to be rescued and to get rid of this depressing situation. At that time, she finds a cat in the rain and wants to help the cat out of the severe environment.
The cat is a significant clue that runs through this story. According to Wikipedia, “‘Though Hemingway learned as a professional reporter how to report facts as they were, he felt that there was a limit to representing reality’ (Kikuchi, 149). This is what he conveys through Cat in the Rain. The idea that there is‘something below the surface’ to this story is particularly evident in relation to the cat. ”
In western culture, cat has close relationship of metaphor with women. “Cat” in English is refers to “evil-minded women,” so the cat in this novel can be seen as the American wife. Their similarity is being lonely, adrift, insecurity and they also can’t control their own destiny. The cat in the rain is just like the women live in the shadow of male-dominated society. The American wife in this novel is very gentle, but her husband’s cold attitude makes her need something to accompany her, at that time, the cat in the rain attracts her attention, she considers the single, helpless cat as herself.
The cat’s bitter experience and unfortunate date certainly resonated with the American wife’s destiny, so she wants to protect the cat, which indicates that the woman herself want to be protected. And the cat lies under the chair to shelter from the rain means the American wife has the consciousness to escape the bondage from traditional social position of women. Besides, the mirror plays an important role in the American wife’s self-realization, because it reflects her exactly, bringing an inner self to her observation and consideration.
After she studies over herself in the mirror, she learns what she craves for. “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…. Anyway, I want a cat… I want a cat. I want a cat now. If I can’t have long hair or any fun, I can have a cat” (Hemingway, 175). However, her indifferent husband just replies “Oh, shut up and get something to read” (Hemingway, 175). The American wife wants to change her situation, appearance, hair-style, and the relationship with her husband.
This also shows her feminist consciousness appeared. Hemingway is famous for his “Hemingway code hero” (Jiang, 132). It is also widely known that there is totally no female figure in The Old Man and the Sea. In this short story, where does Hemingway’s feminist consciousness come from? On the one hand, the main cause is the impact of his family. When Hemingway was a child, his mother dressed him up as his older sisters, this made him feel very depressed to the gender nonconforming, but this experience also made him can understand the lack of the right among the women.
After his 4th marriage, he still hoped to have a daughter, but in the end this wish was not achieved. This shows he is not a misogynist; on the other hand, Hemingway lives in the age that the females’ arousals of feminism consciousness. The feminist movement occurred at the end of 19th century, especially after the World War One, the females debated with the patriarchal society turns on the issues of social position, economic independence, and political rights.
And after their great attempt in a long term, they had got the right to vote in political, and they also had the chance to have their own job, they had short hair, wore short skirt, attend the sport competition. From his personal experience and contemporary tendency, Hemingway is an author who cares about the feminist consciousness as well. In Cat in the Rain, Hemingway uses the image “cat” and the relationship between the “cat” and the American wife to show us the feminist consciousness.