Cat in the Rain

Cat in the Rain Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Ernest Hemingway's Cat in the Rain. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Ernest Hemingway

Among the pantheon of American writers, Ernest Hemingway is undoubtedly a giant. His own life story rivals the stuff of fiction. Born to a well-to-do family in Illinois, he signed on to become an ambulance driver in Italy towards the end of the First World War (1914-1918), when he was still only eighteen. He won the Italian Silver Medal for Bravery for acts of heroism during the conflict, during which he was also wounded. After the war, he worked as a journalist, moving to Paris as a foreign correspondent in 1921, where he met many of the literary luminaries of the period, including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce. Hemingway’s short stories began garnering attention in the 1920s, and he moved on to long-form fiction with his first novel, The Sun Also Rises (1926). As his literary reputation steadily grew, his travels continued. In the 1930s he spent time in Key West, Cuba and Spain, where he reported on the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). In 1944, he returned to cover the Second World War in Europe (1939-1944). Meanwhile, he continued publishing novels, including A Farewell to Arms (1929), To Have and Have Not (1937), and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), all of which touched on themes of war. Other themes of his writing include the wilderness, masculinity and alienation. In 1954, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Although his writing career was spectacularly successful, his life would end in tragedy. By the beginning of the 1960s, he was suffering from serious depression and health problems, partly as a result of a life of heavy drinking, as well as several injuries and accidents. On July 2nd, 1961, while living in Idaho, he killed himself with his favorite shotgun.
Get the entire Cat in the Rain LitChart as a printable PDF.
Cat in the rain.pdf.medium

Historical Context of Cat in the Rain

Hemingway lived through, and experienced firsthand, many of the major events of the first half of the twentieth century. Most notable among these experiences was his time serving as an ambulance driver in Italy during the First World War (1914-1918), and as a correspondent during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the Second World War (1939-1945). The First World War—which was triggered by the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand—pitted Austria, Germany and their allies (the Central Powers), against Great Britain, France, Russia and Italy (the Allied Powers). Tens of millions of soldiers fought in the war. Millions died. The United States only sent troops to Europe in 1917. The war finally ended in 1918, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed by both sides, leading to an armistice. The Second World War began with Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939. In response, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany and its Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, who had ambitions to annex large parts of Europe. The war played out between the Allied Powers, which included Russia and the United States in addition to Britain and France, and the Axis Powers, which included Germany, Italy, and Japan. Widespread death and destruction ensued, including the genocide of six million European Jews and the extermination of many Roma, disabled people, and other ethnic and religious minorities under Hitler’s orders. In 1945, realizing that he was losing the war, Hitler committed suicide, and the Axis Powers soon surrendered to the Allies. In between the two World Wars, Hemingway was also witness to the Spanish Civil War, a conflict that pitted left-leaning Republicans against fascist-leaning Nationalists led by Francisco Franco.

Other Books Related to Cat in the Rain

Hemingway’s pared-down writing style—on full display in “Cat in the Rain”—can be credited to the influence of the seminal modernists of his time, particularly the poet Ezra Pound and the novelist James Joyce, both of whom he met while living in Paris in the 1920s. From Pound, Hemingway learned to distill his sentences into tight, concise images—no surprise given Pound’s own part in ushering in the “imagist” movement in poetry, which extolled precision and economy of description and rejected elaborate literary or poetic diction in favor of informal spoken language. Such traits are embodied in some of Pound’s famous short poems, such as “In a Station of the Metro,” as well as his masterwork, the Cantos. They are also traits of Hemingway’s signature style, notable for its precise and concise description and its simple, straightforward diction. Joyce’s influence on Hemingway is also apparent when one compares a story such as “Cat in the Rain” with the collected stories in Joyce’s early work, Dubliners (1914). Indeed, Hemingway studied Dubliners as a model while completing In Our Time (1925), the book in which “Cat in the Rain” appears. The modernist themes of alienation, loneliness, and loss are a distinctive aspect both of Joyce’s Dubliners and “Cat in the Rain.”
Key Facts about Cat in the Rain
  • Full Title: “Cat in the Rain”
  • When Written: 1923-1925
  • Where Written: Paris
  • When Published: 1925
  • Literary Period: Modern
  • Genre: Short story
  • Setting: Italy
  • Climax: The hotel staff brings the wife a cat
  • Antagonist: George
  • Point of View: Third person narrator

Extra Credit for Cat in the Rain

The man with nine lives? Or Superman? Hemingway survived a surprising array of violent accidents during his lifetime, including two plane crashes within two days of one another in 1954.

Tragic endings. Sadly, Hemingway wasn’t the only member of his family to take his own life. His father, brother, sister and his granddaughter all committed suicide.