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Struggle in Vain

In: English and Literature

Submitted By Joeylin
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Struggle in Vain In "Cat in the Rain," Ernest Hemingway portrays a woman who makes a vain attempt to take control of her own life and change her subordinate status. Though she courageously expresses her ideas and takes action to pursue what she yearns for, she fails to directly refute males' opinions and she, in the end, makes compromises to males. Throughout the story, the woman repeatedly expresses her desire for the cat in the rain. Ignored by her husband for a long time, the woman tries to save the cat to realize her self-value. Regarded as the symbol of females, cats are delicate, vulnerable and uncontrollable of their own fate. It seems to the woman that if she successfully saved the cat out of the rain, she would also be able to save herself out of the submissive position. As Yang Xi mentions, the woman "[expresses her] opinions indirectly on purpose so as to conceal [her] real intention." (Yang 184) As a matter of fact, the woman's wish of protecting the cat, caring for the cat and looking after the cat represents her wish of being protected, being well cared for and being looked after. She attempts to, through looking for the cat, arouse her husband's conscience, responsibility and love. The woman's attitude towards the hotel owner also reveals her hope for being attached importance to. In contrast to the husband's apathy and ruthlessness, the hotel owner pays respect to the woman, and provides the woman with considerate and thoughtful service. The hotel owner "[stands] up and [bows] to her" at the sight of the woman (Hemingway 173). What is more, he sends a maid to the woman to give her the umbrella in case she gets wet. In comparison with the husband's apathy, the respect and care that the hotel owner shows creates an illusion to make the woman feel that she is important and she can obtain everything that she yearns for. The cat in the rain and the hotel owner's behaviors give the woman "a momentary feeling of being of supreme importance," and evoke her strong desire for making a change. As her female-awareness awakens, she speaks out her yearning for long hair, romantic candlelight dinner and new clothes. By employing the word "want" for 11 times, Hemingway displays the woman's firm determination to pursue what she wants and to change her subordinate position. However, faced with the husband's rude interruption and his indifference to her words, the woman makes a concession. She says, "If I can't have long hair or any fun, I can have a cat" (Hemingway 175). Here the woman ceases to express her feelings unilaterally, and instead she begs her husband to give her some love and care. She expects her husband to be stung by conscience and to be concerned about her, but she has no idea that her husband, in fact, cares about neither the cat nor her requirements and emotional fulfillment. During the whole conversation, though depressed and desperate, the woman never says no to her husband or criticizes him for his selfishness and unconcern, instead, dominated by her husband, she continually tolerates and makes compromises. Moreover, when the hotel owner sends a maid to give "a tortoise-shell cat" to the woman, the woman finds that it is probably not the strayed cat that she looks for. The fact implies that the woman can hardly get what she likes and get rid of her dominated position. On the surface, the hotel owner fulfills the woman's wish and gives exactly what the woman wishes to have. However, readers can discover that the cat is not the original cat in the rain. In the preceding part, the woman calls the cat "kitty," which indicates the small shape of the cat. But the cat that the hotel sends is big in size. In addition, the cat is "pressed tight against [the maid] and swung down against her body" (Hemingway 175). The motion of the cat uncovers that the cat is a domestic cat instead of the homeless cat before. Therefore, though the hotel owner seems to satisfy the woman's need, he does not believe that the woman can finally gain independence, autonomy and freedom. Briefly, on the one hand, as the embodiment of the awakening of female-awareness, the woman endeavors to pursue spiritual independence, freedom and love. On the other hand, the woman is still in a vulnerable position because of her limited individual power and her failure to directly say no to males. Only by awakening women’s sense of rebellion and calling upon women to fighting for their dream can women obtain freedom and gender equality.

Work Cited
Hemingway, Ernest. “Cat in the Rain.” Academic Writing for English Majors: Developing an Argument. Ed. Ding Yanren. Nanjing: Nanjing University Press, 2007. 173-175. Print.
Yang, Xi. “Cat and Elephant.’ Academic Writing for English Majors: Developing an Argument. Ed. Ding Yanren. Nanjing: Nanjing University Press, 2007. 184. Print.

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