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Q: Cats in Hemingway's fiction ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: Cats in Hemingway's fiction
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: diebad-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 18 Feb 2003 03:26 PST
Expires: 20 Mar 2003 03:26 PST
Question ID: 162911
What are all of the cat references in Ernest Hemingway's fiction?
Subject: Re: Cats in Hemingway's fiction
Answered By: kutsavi-ga on 18 Feb 2003 11:54 PST
Hey there Diebad, 

I hadn't really noticed the theme of cats in Hemingway either, but
lo-and-behold, it appears that others have.  I found this reference
from a Voice of America radio broadcast about Papa's house in Key

"Ernest Hemingway loved cats. About fifty of them lived in his house
in Key West. He left the house in Nineteen-Forty. No one lives there
now -- except about sixty cats. Many of these animals are related to
an unusual cat given to Hemingway by a ship's captain. That cat had
six toes on each of its paws. Many of the cats living there now also
have six toes.

Ernest Hemingway named his cats after famous writers and movie actors.
That tradition is still alive. If you visit Hemingway's house you can
meet cats named William Shakespeare, Charlie Chaplin and many others.

People who visit the house usually want to know why Hemingway had so
many cats. Hemingway answered the question many years ago. He said,
"One cat leads to another."
From a very interesting essay titled "Hemingway's Use of Animals as
Psychological Symbols, an essay on "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" by
Jerianne Wright, here's mention of Hemingway's use of animals as
symbols, and how the symbols contribute to the depth of the story,
with the cat specifically mentioned in "Cat in the Rain":

"In "Cat in the Rain," the main animal symbol is so essential to the
story that it is described in the title. This "cat in the rain" is
symbolic of the near- drowned emotional state of the American wife in
the story. When the cat is first observed cowering under a table in
the rain, it is described as "she" (167), although the wife is not
physically close enough to determine its gender. This automatically
creates an association for the reader between the cat and the only
other female character mentioned to this point in the story, the
American wife. As she is leaving to rescue the cat, the woman is told
repeatedly, both by her husband and the maid, not to get wet. Getting
the cat is more important than getting wet however, because she
empathizes with the cat. She knows that "it isn't any fun to be a poor
kitty out in the rain" (169). It soon becomes clear to the reader why
the woman feels like a cat drowning in the rain. Her husband is the
source of her emotional despair. He leaves her drowning in an
avalanche of apathy and lack of affection. When she tells him of all
the things she desires, he merely tells her to shut up. The woman
wants the cat so that she can hold it on her lap and pet it as it
purrs. If the cat is a symbol for the woman, then she is expressing a
desire for someone to do the same for her. She wants someone to stroke
her, perhaps physically as well as emotionally. She feels unwomanly,
like a boy with her short hair. She is starved for the physical and
emotional attention that the husband should be giving to her. When the
cat is finally brought in from the rain, it is the hotel-keeper that
has responded to her needs, rather than her husband. The man who had
caused in her "a momentary feeling of supreme importance" (169), in
whom she admired "the way he wanted to serve her" (168), has brought
both the literal and symbolic cats in from the rain. He has provided
the woman with the attention that she is not receiving from her
husband, at least in an emotional sense. The maid, however, holds the
"cat pressed tight against her and swung down against her body" (170)
in much the same way that one would hold a baby. This, combined with
the husband's apathy and the wife's obvious connection with the
hotel-keeper, suggests that the wife will be satisfied sexually as
well as emotionally by this man.

Hemingway's use of animal symbolism is a contribution to the richness
of his characters. It provides the reader with a vehicle through which
to better understand the psychological experiences of the characters
with which they are associates. Without them, the stories would lose
much of both their color and their clarity."

Some symbols become iconic of a certain author's work, and the cat
appears to have become such for Hemingway.  From an essay titled
"Figurative Language", the chapter "Symbol" states:

"Symbols can be categorized according to use and origin. Some images,
repeated in a particular author's work, become "private symbols", such
as the cat in Hemingway's "Cat in the Rain" or the cats in T.S.
Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Images repeated in a
genre become "public symbols," such as roses and eyes in Troubador
poetry. Some images come to be inherent parts of a culture's self
description and definition, and become encoded in myth. For example,
the shields of Achilles and Perseus in classical myth are adopted into
English myth in the shields of Artegall and the Redcross Knight in
Spenser's Faerie Queene. Finally, religion has its own symbols, often
adopted by literature and popular culture, such as the cat in Egyptian
religion and the cross of Christianity."

So it appears Hemingway simply enjoyed his cats, especially his
six-toed one, and used them repeatedly as icons and symbols to
"flesh-out" his stories.

Hope this answers your interesting question.  If you need more info,
feel free to use the "Request Clarification" button.



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cat theme hemingway
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cats hemingway
Subject: Re: Cats in Hemingway's fiction
From: rico-ga on 18 Feb 2003 11:22 PST
Not an answer, but as a comment, the only one that comes to mind is
the older Hemingway's favorite, "Boise", aka "Boy", a real cat whp
plays a role in the fictional "Islands in the Stream."

For non-fiction, there's "A Moveable Feast" of course, and Hemingway's
memorable description of "F. Puss" aka "Featherpuss", the great cat
who stood guard and baby sat the young Jack (aka Mr. Bumby aka G'ning
G'ning the Terrible) Hemingway in Paris.


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