While Reading Activities
- palms n. any of numerous plants of the family Palmae, most species being tall, unbranched trees surmounted by a crown of large pinnate or palmately cleft leaves.
- easel n. a stand or frame for supporting or displaying at an angle an artist’s canvas, a blackboard.
- war monument n. is a building, statue or other edifice to celebrate a war or victory, or (predominating in modern times) to commemorate those who died or were injured in war.
- glistened v. to reflect a sparkling light or a faint intermittent glow; shine lustrously.
- gravel n. small stones and pebbles, or a mixture of these with sand.
- crouched v.-to bend close to the ground, as an animal preparing to spring or shrinking with fear.
- complaints n. an expression of discontent, regret, pain, censure, resentment, or grief; lament;
- dignity n. bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation.
- eaves n. the overhanging lower edge of a roof.
- profile n. the outline or contour of the human face, especially the face viewed from one side.
Source: New Oxford American Dictionary
Reading Comprehension Questions
- There are only four characters: the husband, the wife, the owner of the hotel, and a maid. However, the story centers around the husband and the wife.
- The wife is the protagonist. The story is being told from the wife’s point of view by a narrator.
- The wife, hotelkeeper and maid speak Italian, so we know they are in Italy.
- She liked the “deadly serious way he received any complaints, his dignity, his old, heavy face and big hands.”
- The maid. Because the Hotel Keeper told her to.
- She didn’t want the wife to get wet.
- He made her feel very small and at the same time really important.
- No, because continued to read his book as though he were ignoring his wife.
- Letting it grow out.
- She wants a change of life, something new.
- He says: “I like it the way it is.”
III. Post Reading
Questions for Reflection
1. Some conflicts are: the wife wanting the cat, problems between the husband and wife, the wife’s unhappiness, the wife’s fixation with the hotelkeeper (because she is so unhappy, we wonder if she might cheat on her husband with the hotelkeeper).
2. Some of the themes are unhappiness, loneliness, isolation, desiring to be with another person, infertility, lost love, motherhood.
3. Some of the symbols are as follows.
- The main symbol is the cat (the title of the story). We get the feeling (and from Hemingway’s biography) that the animal is symbolic of the wife. We first see the animal in the rain wet, “under one of the dripping” green tables. The cat was trying to “make itself so compact that she would not be dripped on.” The husband tells her “don’t get wet”, and the maid brings her an umbrella, so that “she doesn’t get wet”. Like the cat, the woman hopes someone will “rescue” her. She feels alone and unloved by her husband. Another symbol is that of motherhood, or infertility. Several times the wife refers to the cat as a “kitty” making it sound vulnerable, and helpless, (much like a baby). The wife doesn’t know why she “desperately” needs to get the cat, however this could also be her need to be a mother. It isn’t clear why she has this need. She could have lost a baby, or for some reason she and her husband can’t have children.
- Self-esteem might be another symbol. It is the hotel keeper who makes the wife “feel very small” and at the same time really important. She had a momentary feeling of being of supreme importance” while her husband ignored her. This is an example of someone with low self-esteem.
- The war memorial can also be seen as another symbolic reference. It is mentioned several times during the story. This could mean that disaster is about to strike.
4. An example of the use of imagery is the way in which the weather is described “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 hotel facing the sea.” This evokes the impression of “happy” times. Then Hemingway describes an atmosphere that is wet, bleak, and lonely. He states, “The motor cars were gone from the square by the war monument. Across the square in the doorway of the cafe a waiter stood looking out at the empty square.” This evokes a feeling of loneliness, or sadness.5
5.We can feel the emptiness in the couple’s relationship through their interactions with each other. The husband is constantly reading, while the wife is constantly looking out of the window or going out after the cat. At one point he tells the wife to “shut up” and get something “to read”. The marriage has disintegrated. Neither one listens to the other any longer.
6. The fact that the wife is never mentioned by her name, but is always referred to as “the wife” might have been Hemingway’s method of showing the problems and the disconnection he was feeling from his real wife at the time he wrote this story.
Suggestion: Have students share their essays with the class, especially the ones who chose to write a different ending for the story.