21 pages 42 minutes read

Ernest Hemingway

Cat in the Rain

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1925

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Summary and Study Guide

Summary: “Cat in the Rain”

“Cat in the Rain,” a short story by American author Ernest Hemingway, was first published in the 1925 collection In Our Time. Hemingway’s story, like much of his work, is semi-autobiographical and based on his experience as an expatriate in Europe after World War I. Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, shared a love of cats, and it’s thought he wrote this story for her while they lived in Italy and France. The short story is a typical modernist work that employs literary devices such as symbolism, repetition, and descriptive imagery to express themes of gender and isolation.

This guide refers to the story as it appears in In Our Time (Boni and Liveright, 1925).

Summary

The story opens with an American couple visiting a hotel in Italy; they are the only two Americans staying there. Their room faces the sea, a public garden, and a war monument. Normally, the square is busy with artists and visitors to the war monument, but on this rainy evening it is deserted. While this view is described as one that would often serve as inspiration for local artists, in this scene the view is obscured by a heavy rain that falls throughout the evening.

Through the hotel room window, the American wife notices a cat under one of the tables outside trying to find shelter from the rain. She has a strong desire to rescue the cat and bring it inside. Meanwhile, her husband, George, is reading on the bed and seems mostly uninterested in his wife’s concerns. When the wife tells her husband that she wants to get the cat, he half-heartedly offers to go instead. The wife says she will go.

The wife goes downstairs and talks to the kind Italian hotel-keeper, whom she likes very much. When the wife opens the front door of the hotel to go look for the cat, the maid who is attending to the couple’s hotel room appears and holds an umbrella over the wife as they go outside. Unable to find the cat, they return to the hotel lobby, and the wife returns upstairs.

Back in the hotel room, the wife expresses her disappointment to George about being unable to find the cat. She quickly adds other frustrations she is experiencing. She tells him that she wants to change her hair and that she wants numerous other things including new clothes and candlelit dinners. The husband responds rudely, telling her to “Shut up and get something to read” (2). The two sit in their own separate silences for a moment, and then there is a knock on the door. The maid appears at the door holding a large tortoiseshell cat. She tells the wife that the hotel-keeper had instructed her to bring the cat to her.

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