Ernest Hemingway is known for his surprisingly brief and ‘quiet’ short stories that tackle numerous topics through different approaches. In his stories, “Cat in the Rain” and “A Clean and Well-lighted place” Hemingway tackles the issue of loneliness. In both of these stories the theme of loneliness is not directly addressed, instead a subtle and discreet amount of symbolism is used to imply the theme while allowing the reader critical thought which is important in appreciating either of these stories.
In “A Clean and well-lighted Place” Hemingway skimps on the characters and focuses on the parallel symbols between the client in the cafe and the waiters to approach the theme of loneliness. In this story, a young waiter who is in a hurry to close the cafe converses with an older waiter who is more considerate in understanding why a deaf old man prefers to stay late in the cafe drinking brandy. In this story, Hemingway presents three faces of loneliness, the first being symbolized by the deaf, brandy-drinking, old man.
In the story, the old man attempts to kill himself prior to his appearance in the cafe, hence, the discussion between the waiters in the lines, “”Last week he tried to commit suicide,” one waiter said. ”Why? ” “He was in despair. “” (Hemingway) The waiters, in their conversation, also mention that the old man is very wealthy and lives with only with his niece; later, they also get into talking about the old man’s wife and his family.
(Hemingway) From these implied characterizations, the old man is experiencing loneliness because he has nobody left in his life except his niece, and the mere fact that he is living with his niece also possibly implies that he had no children or his children had left him already. The most potent indicator of loneliness for this old man is the fact that he stays up very late drinking brandy; which Hemingway then contrasts with the young waiter who is in a hurry to go home because he had a wife waiting for him, and who claims that, he has confidence and that he is all confidence.
(Hemingway) With these, Hemingway implies that the young fellow was experiencing a loneliness that was normal for his age – the loneliness of fulfillment; that although he had almost everything, a job, a wife, and his youth, he was not yet fulfilled. Finally, the third approach that Hemingway employed was to present loneliness as a tie that binds all lonely people together. In the story, one will notice that the older waiter is quite considerate of the old deaf man, hence, the lines, “”Why didn’t you let him stay and drink?
” the unhurried waiter asked. ” (Hemingway) The reason for this consideration comes at the end of the story when the older waiter, after work, goes to a bar for lack of a cleaner and brighter place to go to, and spends the rest of the time drinking brandy as well, because he claims he has insomnia; but in fact, he too is lonely which explains why he had sympathized with the old deaf man. In “Cat in the Rain” Hemingway brings out another kind of loneliness known to many as domestic loneliness, or the anonymity between the wife and the husband.
Here, in this story, Hemingway uses the cat in the rain to symbolize the desire of the female character to have a child of her own to which her husband seems indifferent. The woman sees a cat in the rain, by the ledge of their hotel window and remarks, “”I’m. going down and get that kitty,”” (Hemingway); to this, the husband merely, “went on reading, lying propped up with the two pillows at the foot of the bed. ” (Hemingway) after being refused by his wife on his offer to go out and get the cat himself. Here now, one notices the indifference of the husband.
The loneliness of the wife is implied in the fact that normally, when a husband and a wife are in a room together, nothing else exists, but since the wife saw the kitten, then she was looking out of the window which illustrate that she was in deep thought to have noticed something other than her husband. In a way, the wife is lonely because she is dissatisfied with her married life – this is clear in the scene after she is unable to retrieve the cat and she goes back to the room. (Hemingway) While sitting in front of the mirror she blurts out many things such as wanting her hair long to which her husband seems unabashed.
The matter of loneliness is even compounded when after wanting her hair long, the wife enumerates a number of other things that she wants, to include, “I want to pull my hair back tight and smooth and make a big knot at the back, I want to have a kitty to sit on my, I want to eat at a table with my own silver and I want candles…” and she goes on and on until the husband is annoyed and tells her to shut up. Here, Hemingway uses the material desires of the woman to symbolize the depth of her loneliness with her husband; that her husband was not giving her enough attention, so she wanted many other things to compensate for this lack.
Despite the very short executions of these two stories, Hemingway was able to get his message across. The distinct and unique feature of both of these stories is the subtlety in the way the author delivers and conveys the message and the expanded use of symbols to discreetly convey the central thematic of loneliness. References Hemingway, E. (2000). Cat in the Rain. Retrieved July 24, 2010, from http://www. my-forum. org/_79008/Ernest_Hemingway__Cat_in_the_Rain_151745. html Hemingway, E. (2001). A Clean and Well-lighted Place. Retrieved July 24, 2010, from http://www. mrbauld. com/hemclean. html
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