‘Cat In The Rain’ by Ernest Hemingway

Cat In The Rain by Ernest Hemingway, 1925

The magic trick:

Creating two vivid and contrasting male characters with minimal words

It’s been a long time since I’ve read any Hemingway.

I think maybe I didn’t realize how much I’d missed this kind of story, this kind of writing.

It certainly is spare to the point of being intensely efficient. But you already knew that. It’s Hemingway’s calling card, of course.

“Cat In The Rain” does an especially impressive job at creating two male characters who become pretty close to fully formed without featuring in the story much at all. We have the protagonist’s husband. He sits on the bed, mainly, reading and offering minimal responses. The detail about him resting, propped up with the two pillows at the end of the bed, is perfect.

His inattentiveness looms large in the story, almost violent.

Then we have the head of the hotel. He’s in the story even less, but his presence might be even greater. He’s warm, caring, concerned, interested.

I know the Hemingway precision is old hat in terms of literary commentary, but this really is a great example if you’re looking to be reminded.

And that’s quite a trick on Hemingway’s part.

The selection:

There were only two Americans stopping at the hotel. They did not know any of the people they passed on the stairs on their way to and from their room. Their room was on the second floor facing the sea. It also faced the public garden and the war monument. There were big palms and green benches in the public garden. In the good weather there was always an artist with his easel. Artists liked the way the palms grew and the bright colors of the hotels facing the gardens and the sea. Italians came from a long way off to look up at the war monument. It was made of bronze and glistened in the rain. It was raining. The rain dripped from the palm trees. Water stood in pools on the gravel paths. The sea broke in a long line in the rain and slipped back down the beach to come up and break again in a long line in the rain. The motor cars were gone from the square by the war monument. Across the square in the doorway of the café a waiter stood looking out at the empty square.


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