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cat in the rain

Explain how George and the hotel keeper are different in terms of their character and actions in "Cat in the Rain."


George and the hotel keeper are foil characters.  Hemingway uses the hotel keeper's manners and attentiveness to portray what the American wife desires and employs George's indifference and nonchalance to illuminate the wife's dissatisfaction with married life in general. 

George is somewhat lazy, disinterested and selfish.  When his wife and he are cooped up in a room together, he entertains himself by lying on the bed, reading (a one-person activity), and half-heartedly listening to his wife talk about the kitty in the rain. He barely moves throughout the entire story.  When she returns to the room without the cat, he begins to listen to her but quickly loses interest and tells her to shut up.

In contrast, the hotel keeper waits on the wife and caters to her every need and desire. He bows to her; he sends a maid with an umbrella to protect her from the rain, and he rescues the cat that the wife wants and sends it up to her at the story's end.

"Cat in the Rain" is another one of Hemingway's short works which focuses on disillusionment with the American way of life. While the wife is certainly disillusioned with married life, her husband is equally cynical about marriage and life in general.  He is bored but does not know what to do to change that, and he simply does not care anymore about his wife's needs/desires.  Once again in contrast, the Italians in the story all appear to be hard-working and cheerful.

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