Hemingway’s Short Stories of Autobiographical, Immature Males Hemingway’s short stories Cat in the Rain and The Snows of Kilimanjaro have male characters that are autobiographical. He attempted to dispel criticism of his short stories as autobiographical because Hemingway did not care for critics. His focus on his work as art ignores the autobiographical and psychological content he depended upon to develop characters. His characters are judged by the female characters of the short stories in the same way Hemingway was judged by his wives.
Ernest Hemingway wrote stories about autobiographical, male characters that lacked maturity as judged by female characters. He exhibited this in his married life and it may have contributed to his risk taking in war as well as his suicide. As one of the “Lost Generation” of the 1920’s, Hemingway communicated his shortcomings through the art of the short story. Cat in the Rain is a good short story that does two things at once.
First, it provides a believable picture of the surface of life and second it also illuminates some moral or psychological complexity that we feel is part of the essence of human life. Firstly, because it is autobiographical, it is a believable picture of the surface of life, his life. Secondly, it illuminates his psychological complexity in ignoring the drive to reproduce which is part of the essence of human life. Hemingway’s story fulfills both of these specifications as a good short story that does two things at once.
Cat in the Rain is an autobiographic metaphor for his first wife’s desire to have a baby. The nameless wife in the story agonized as any other woman would whose biological clock is counting down her drive to reproduce before childbirth becomes more dangerous in later life or when her ovaries stop producing eggs. She says, ‘“I wanted it so much,” she said. “I don’t know why I wanted it so much. I wanted that poor kitty. It isn’t any fun to be a poor kitty. It isn’t any fun to be a poor kitty out in the rain. ’ (Barnet 686) Not knowing why something is wanted matches with the instinctual drive to reproduce. Instincts are part of our animal programming and consequently part of the essence of human life. If we ignore our instincts, we are ignoring an important part of our human animal composition and setting ourselves up for failure in our relationships with other humans with the same instinctual programming. This is especially dangerous in intimate relationships like husband and wife. Hemingway’s first wife Hadley wanted a cat as the wife did in the story and she wanted a baby.
Carlene Brennen in her book Hemingway’s Cats describes the autobiographical events in Hemingway’s life that mirror the drive to reproduce and the corresponding drive to adopt and mother a pet, like the cat, or conceive and raise a child, that he and his wife Hadley could not afford: “When Ernest was working, Hadley spent many lonely hours in their cramped apartment reading, writing letters, practicing on her rented upright piano, and she considered adopting a kitten for company. Ernest loved cats as much as she did, but told his wife they were too poor to own a cat. Their funds were limited, and he could not justify the added expense.
These words came back to haunt Hemingway when he noticed how depressed his wife was becoming. Hadley was thirty years old, almost eight years his senior, considerably older than most women in those days who planned to start a family. Ernest knew how much she wanted to have a child. But, for now, having children was out of the question, and so was owning a cat. ” (15) If one substitutes a baby for the cat in the short story, you can identify the dialogue Hadley may have felt before her pregnancy. The wife in the short story says, ‘“I want a cat,” she said. “I want a cat. I want a cat now. If I can’t have long hair or any fun I can have a cat. ’ (Barnet 686) Hadley may have uttered the same dialogue in Hemingway’s real life. “Hadley’s unexpected pregnancy changed Ernest’s plans for the future and, eventually, his thoughts on owning a pet. Ernest began working on a short story Cat in the Rain, about a lonely American woman who sees a kitten in the rain and tries to rescue it. ” (Brennen 15) Hemingway’s autobiographical confrontation with a wife’s drive to raise a family is also depicted in the film of Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro. In the film, the character played by actor Gregory Peck was a white hunter and writer, just like Hemingway.
Like his true self, the character is haunted by his first wife’s desire to raise a child before she causes a miscarriage as played by actress Ava Gardner. She, too, was driven to raise a family and settle down like the wife in Cat in the Rain. Hemingway’s fumbling depiction of the clueless husband in the short story matched the mistakes of the husband in the film. Brennan recounts both the drive to have a child and a cat in a biography of Hadley: “The story was a tribute to Hadley, who was dealing with her first year of marriage, the loneliness it entailed, and her deep desire for otherhood. According to biographer Gioia Diliberto, in her biography, Hadley, Hemingway based the story on an incident that happened in Rapallo in 1923. Hadley was two months pregnant when she found a kitten that had been hiding under a table in the rain. ” (Brennen 16) As an autobiographic metaphor for his first wife’s desire to have a baby, Ernest Hemingway’s Cat in the Rain is a believable picture of the surface of his life. At the same time, it shows that ignoring the deeper drive to reproduce is tantamount to ignoring or denying that it is an essence of human life.
His ignorance or denial demonstrates Hemingway’s psychological complexity. Hemingway ignored the instinctual facts of life in his own relationship and relived the conflict and break-ups he consequently experienced in his short stories and on film. His multiple marriages are evidence of his recurring denial of the need to address the nesting instinct, whether with child or cat, in the woman he first married and that ignorance is repeated by the autobiographical characters in his writings.
Bickford Sylvester, in his article “Winner Take Nothing: Development as Dilemma for the Hemingway Heroine” notes that “Males and females in individual stories of this work both experience betrayal and disillusionment. In The End of Something, Cat in the Rain, and Out of Season, a girl or young woman learns that she must live without the support of an adequate male or the supposed securities of the institutions of love and marriage. Her most cherished natural and social expectations are thus exposed as false.
And each of these young females of the composite comes off as a sympathetically-portrayed victim, uniformly stronger and more honest with herself than is the male she wishes to share her life with. ” (74) The female character is more mature and in a position to judge the immaturity of the inadequate male. This weakness as a sign of immaturity in Hemingway’s male characters is pointed out by David Lodge in his analysis of Cat in the Rain when he states, “The wife, looking out of the window at a scene made joyless by the rain, sees a cat with whose discomfort she emotionally identifies.
Her husband, though offering to fetch it, implies his indifference to her emotional needs by not actually moving. ” (18) Not recognizing emotional needs of a partner in a relationship can lead to the end of that marriage. The females characters of Hemingway’s short stories as the female protagonist of Cat in the Rain are presented as caught in the need to develop maturity in their relationships with men. Sylvester says, “For Hemingway’s protagonists, the only way to maturity is through a romantic individual union with natural order, an order larger than society, larger than mankind.
And it is an order to which the heroine must contribute only at great cost to the part of her self which does not directly need that union. This view of man and woman hardly affirms the more fashionable current theories of sexual psychology (and it may always have been the ultimate source of that discomfort felt by some female readers). ” (78-79) Male readers of today may be free of Hemingway’s inability to see female maturity as not threatening and may consequently feel the same type of discomfort that Sylvester refers to.
Sylvester points out the difficulty Hemingway’s women characters have in dealing with the immaturity of the males when he reveals, “In “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” Helen remains at the end on the ground, […] Helen remains below in the temporal realm she wishes only to share with her man. It is almost exactly the temperamental standoff between men and women portrayed […], where the reward for the protagonists’ development is the hero’s recognition of this impasse, and the heroine’s bafflement by the inconvenient platonism of males. (76) Sylvester remarks “But there is something Hemingway’s composite heroine can take in winning self-realization – something she can gain as her mark of maturity. ” (77) It is in their maturity that the female characters point out that lacking in the males. Bern Oldsey in his article “The Snows of Ernest Hemingway. ” points out an irrational fear that holds back the maturity of males. “Harry’s women – including Helen and his first wife […] – have all threatened to un-man or de-man him by diverting energies that should have been applied to his writing.
Thus Harry’s imaginary flight constitutes the ultimate in a long line of withdrawals from female arms; part of its motivating power comes from the immemorial fear of castration. ” (187) This irrational fear may be the psychological element that hindered both the maturity of the males is his stories and of Hemingway in his marriages. The immature males of Hemingway’s short stories Cat in the Rain and The Snows of Kilimanjaro were judged by the female characters in the same way Hemingway was judged by his wives. His focus on his work came at a cost in his interpersonal relationships with the women in his life.
He ignored the autobiographical and psychological advice he depended upon to develop characters in his writing at the expense of women in his own life. With more maturity, Hemingway’s characters may have had more successful relationships and the author might have been able to apply that maturity to his own marriages.
Works Cited Barnet, Sylvan, William Burto, and William E. Cain. Literature for Composition: Essays, Stories, Poems, and Plays. Boston: Longman, 2011. Print. Brennen, Carlene Fredericka. Hemingway’s Cats. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple, 2011. Print. Lodge, David. Analysis and Interpretation of the Realist Text: A Pluralistic Approach to Ernest Hemingway’s “Cat in the Rain”” Poetics Today 1. 4 (1980): 5-22. JSTOR. Web. 19 Apr. 2012. Oldsey, Bern. “The Snows of Ernest Hemingway. ” Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature 4. 2 (1963): 172-98. JSTOR. Web. 19 Apr. 2012. The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Dir. Henry King. Perf. Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. BFS Entertainment ;amp; Multimedia Ltd. , 2001. DVD. Sylvester, Bickford. “Winner Take Nothing: Development as Dilemma for the Hemingway Heroine. ” Pacific Coast Philology 21. 1/2 (1986): 73-80. JSTOR. Web. 19 Apr. 2012.