Cat in the Rain (1925) Study Guide for Ernest Hemingway’s Short Story
- Read the opening paragraph of the story closely and discuss how it helps to set the tone of the story and how it provides the readers with the theme(s) of the story. For example: Why are there only two Americans stopping at the hotel? What do “the public garden” and “the war monument stand” for in the story? What is the importance of the emphasis on the weather in the opening paragraph? What is the symbolic value of the artists? What is the reason for the narrator’s emphasis on the emptiness of the square?
- What is the significance of the rain in the story?
- Identify what the female protagonist is called in the whole story and discuss in what ways this could be significant.
- Why does the narrator describe the cat as “crouched under one of the dripping green tables”?
- Make a comparison between George and the hotel keeper. What is the function of each of these characters in the story?
- What is the significance of the man in a rubber cape in the story?
- Identify the horizontal and vertical images in Hemingway’s story and discuss how these images help you to understand the story.
- What could be the metaphorical value of the maid’s question to the wife: “Ha perduto qualque cosa, Signoria?” (“Have you lost something, Madam?”)
- Why does the hotel keeper make the American wife “feel very small and at the same time really important”?
- Discuss the references to the wife’s hair: Why does George like his wife’s hair “the way it is”? Why does the wife want to “make a big knot at the back”?
- There are two cats in the story. What does each of them symbolize? Why does the wife want a kitty to sit on her lap and purr?
- Extension Activity:
Hemingway’s “Iceberg Theory”: Hemingway views his writing style as “fashioned on the “principle of the iceberg,” for “seven eights of it [is] under water for every part that shows” (cited in Thomas Strychacz, 1999, in The Cambridge Companion to Hemingway, Scott Donaldson (Ed.), p. 59). In other words, as Hemingway said, “You could omit anything if you knew that you omitted and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood” (cited in Elizabeth Dewberry, 1999, in The Cambridge Companion to Hemingway, Scott Donaldson, Ed., p. 23)
Discuss Hemingway’s metaphor of “iceberg” in relation to his short story “Cat in the Rain”.
© Ali Nihat Eken, Istanbul, January 2009