How does Hemingway portray understanding, care, and love in the marital relationship in "Cat in the Rain"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Hemingway shows the value of understanding, care, and love in a marital relationship by contrasting the way the Italian hotel-keeper treats an American woman to the way her husband, George, does.

The hotel-keeper is much kinder and more attentive to the wife than her husband. For instance, when she says she is going to save a cat she sees taking shelter from the rain under a table, George halfheartedly offers to go get the cat but doesn't resist when she says she will go. He simply goes back to his book and leaves her to it. In contrast, the hotel-keeper has a hotel maid go out with the wife, carrying an umbrella to keep her from getting wet, a bit of thoughtfulness the husband does not think of:

"You must not get wet," she [the maid] smiled, speaking Italian. Of course, the hotel-keeper had sent her.

When the wife returns to the hotel room, unable to find the cat, the husband does put down the book he is reading to talk to her but quickly grows impatient as she tries to express her unhappiness and dissatisfaction. When she describes wanting to grow her hair long and wear it in a knot on the back of her head and have a cat, he shows his indifference:

"Oh, shut up and get something to read," George said. He was reading again.

Even when she says she is having no fun:

George was not listening. He was reading his book.

In contrast, the hotel-keeper is thoughtful and perceptive enough to perceive the lonely wife's need for a creature to nurture. He has a cat brought up to her.

The husband is too self-absorbed to see through his wife's apparent whining to the deep loneliness she feels in the marriage, but the hotel-keeper understands. The kind of thoughtful caring the hotel-keeper shows is what is needed in this empty marriage. Hemingway is showing that small, attentive gestures matter.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial