Cat in the rain
“Cat in the Rain” recounts the story of an American couple on vacation in Italy. The entirety of the story’s action takes place in or around the couple’s hotel, which faces the sea as well as the “public garden and the war monument”.Throughout the story it rains, leaving the couple trapped within their hotel room. As the American wife watches the rain, she sees a cat crouched “under one of the dripping green tables.” Feeling sorry for the cat that “was trying to make herself so compact she would not be dripped on,” the American wife decides to rescue “that kitty.”
On her way downstairs, the American wife encounters the innkeeper, with whom she has a short conversation. In this encounter, Hemingway specifically emphasizes how the wife “likes” the innkeeper, a word that is repeated often throughout the stories of In Our Time: “The wife liked him. She liked the deadly serious way he received any complaints. She liked his dignity. She liked the way he wanted to serve her. She liked the way he felt about being a hotel-keeper. She liked his old, heavy face and big hands”. When the American wife finally arrives outside that cat is gone, and, slightly crestfallen, she returns to the room alone.
The American wife then has a (rather one-sided) conversation with her husband about the things she wants with her life, particularly how she wants to settle down (as opposed to the transient vacation life the couple has in the story): “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.” However, her husband, George, continues to read his books, acting dismissively of what his wife “wants.”
The story ends when the maid arrives with a “big tortoise-shell cat pressed tight against her and swung down against her body,” which she gives to the American wife. This ending is both abrupt and ambiguous, and “hinges on the mystery of the tortoise-shell cat’s identity. We do not know whether it is the “kitty” the wife spotted outside and so do not know whether she will be pleased to get it.” A New York Times book reviewer comments on the plot of the very short story, writing “that is absolutely all there is, yet a lifetime of discontent, of looking outside for some unknown fulfillment is compressed into the offhand recital.”