“Cat in the Rain” and “Hills like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway


Hemmingway had a way of writing about emotions without specifically pointing at them. In so doing, he makes it easier to compare some of his popular works. The story “Cat in the Rain” takes the same approach as he leaves the audience guessing about the tension between the couple. The same approach is evident in “Hills like White Elephants,” where the wise choice of words when depicting the tension between the wife and the husband equally helps the audience to identify the strain between the two. In this regard, it proves easy to engage in a comparative exploration of the two stories both centered on couples who are experiencing tension and dysfunctional relationships. In essence, this comparison maintains that through the use of imagery, Hemmingway presents two men who are not concerned about the feelings and needs of their wives, by using a controlled tone in both stories to keep the audience guessing about the possible tension or dysfunctional relationships.

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For the two stories, one of the major areas of comparison is the troubled relationships, especially how the men are grappling with the challenge of understanding their women. In both scenarios, the audience is treated to a man and a woman confined to a quiet but rather passive moment.  The two stories equally show the successful use of subtlety and imagery in ascertaining the dysfunctional relationships between couples.  Principally, both male characters are experiencing serious troubles understanding their wives and Hemmingway uses criticism to identify their flaws.

In “Cat in the Rain,” the woman ostensibly likes the hotel keeper but disdains her husband. When she wants to have her hair grown, the husband turns down the idea claiming that he loves her short hair. Eventually, the story ends with the little girl coming to present the cat to the American woman and says that she has been instructed by the hotel-keeper. In this story, only the hotel-keeper recognizes what the woman wants, symbolically used to show the flaws of the American in understanding his woman. Hemmingway compares how the American man treats his wife and how the hotel keeper treats the maid. As the wife walks out, the author says “the padrone made her feel small but very important” (Hemingway, n.d.a, p. 684).  The attributes are not found in the American man. Hence, the story symbolically means that “a cat in the rain” is what the woman wants, but the husband barely comprehends.

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Comparatively, the man in “Hills like White Elephants” does not understand what his woman wants.  For him, it will be perfect if she did what he likes. In doing so, Hemmingway displays the same character in the Cat in the Rain where the man loves his woman’s short hair, does not want to listen to her request to have her hair grown long and never bothers to help her get the cat as a kitty.  Equally, “Hills like White Elephants” showcases a man who barely recognizes what his woman appreciates. The hills are used as imagery of her desire since all she wants is for her man to approve of her desires and likes. The woman says, “they look like white elephants,” but the man reiterates, “I’ve never seen one” (Hemingway, n.d.b, p. 211). The discussion leads to a major disagreement because the man disregards the woman’s suggestion that the mountains look like white elephants.  Therefore, in the two stories, the author exposes two self-centered men who put their interest before the women and never concerned with how they feel.

In both stories, Hemingway maintains a controlled tone. Control in this essence implies that everything appears to fall apart and needs to be amended by the couples. However, he uses a tone that seems to suggest the relationship problems rather than specifically point at the issues. For instance, in “Cat in the Rain,” the couple is in rebellion and restraint. The two are discontent and at odds but do not dare to talk about it; the tension is due to the limited or lack of interaction. In the same case, “Hills Like White Elephants” uses the same approach whereby the wife and the man are in a constraint relationship, but in the end, are forced to bear it for the sake of being together. For example, the man is compelled to take the bags across while the woman has to bear being with a man who does not think she is right and only self-centered about himself. The controlled tone in “Cat in the Rain” is created by the setting whereby the couple is confined in a hotel room while in the Hills like White Elephants, it is provided by a man and woman trapped in a restaurant and at a train station.

In both stories, Hemingway uses a controlled tone to suggest a specific unhappiness that the couples are trying their level best to avoid. In “Cat in the Rain,” the couple is trapped in a hotel room, but in the second story, they are trapped in a train station.  In both cases, Hemmingway introduces dialogues that are terse as his writing style. The style provides the audience with the insinuation that the author is excluding something.  Hence, the controlled tone creates a suspense that only suggests that in both stories, something may be wrong but only for the reader to infer.

The writing style in the two stories is also comparable. Hemmingway uses fewer adverbs and adjectives as an implication that he has majorly focused on the action parts. Although the approach leads to the assumption that the writing may be lacking emotion, it is artistically used in the two stories to create emotions.  Therefore, the two stories depict an author who creates feelings and emotions without necessarily having to mention the state of affairs.

In summary, Hemmingway’s approach to identifying or pointing at emotions appears in bot stories when he explores the challenges of two men who seemingly have no idea about what their women’s desires.  In both cases, imagery and symbolism are apparent and used to portray how the men are negligent and self-centered. However, the success in identifying this tone rests in the manner in which Hemmingway controls the tone, uses fewer adverbs and adjectives to avoid pointing directly at the emotions but rather leaves the audience guessing about the possibility of the tension between the men and their wives.

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Did you like this sample?
  1. Hemingway, E. (n.d.a). A cat in the rain. In D. Rosenberg (Ed.), World literature – An anthropology of great short stories, poetry and drama (pp. 683-686).  McGraw-Hill/Glencoe.
  2. Hemingway, E. (n.d.b). Hills like white elephants. In D. Rosenberg (Ed.), World literature – An anthropology of great short stories, poetry and drama (pp. 211-214).   McGraw-Hill/Glencoe.
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